When I was sixteen, I went to Israel with my Dad. When I got back, I submitted some of the pictures I had taken there to be judged in the Houston Center for Photography’s 24th Juried Exhibition, thinking it would be worth a try, knowing I had no chance of being selected among actual adult, professional photographers. Regardless, with my mom calling me downstairs for dinner, I hurriedly typed up an Artist Statement about my pictures, assembled my portfolio, and sent it in.
I woke up to find one of my photographs in the Houston Paper.
The following is the statement I wrote, the pictures I took, and the exhibition of which I was a part as a sixteen year old:
Artist Statement: Sea Dead
You drive four hundred miles. Eight hours. Two days. Across desert and mountains and nothing. Four hundred miles. You check into a cheap hotel, one with a window. Maybe a balcony. Maybe a bed with a chocolate or a TV. You walk past the lobby, past the parking lot, past the pool and the lounge chairs and the people. The sky is empty; the mountains dot the horizon, far away. You take your towel and a swimsuit and a camera, you walk to the water. The water is still, the only motion comes from ripples made by some playing children. No fish or plants live here, the sea is dead, it’s sundown. Two overweight and elderly tourists bathe in the therapeutic black mud. The two children leave, the water is now still. The only motion comes from the periphery, a highway to the left, the one you drove in on, the one through the desert. Your father gets in the water. He floats. Alone in the sea, he swims delicately on the glassy surface. You climb to the top of a hill, one cleared by a bulldozer for another soon-to-be cheap hotel with TV’s and windows, you take some pictures. First of the tourists, then of your father, then the water and the orange umbrellas that sit lazily on its shoreline. You run to the sea, you put down the camera, you slowly step into the salty water. You ease yourself into the sea’s stillness, you close your eyes. You fall onto your back, onto the placid glass surface. And you float, you float on the sea.
The photographs in Sea Dead were taken by John R. Benjamin during one evening at the Dead Sea in Israel. March 2006.