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Lauren Taubenfeld's Portfolio

Getting Lost

October 8, 2019

Getting
Lost


There was
a time when I quite literally channeled Rebecca Solnit’s ‘A Field Guide for Getting
Lost’1 in which I ventured out to different desert landscapes around the
American South West to “get lost” with hopes of “finding myself”; in the most
cliché sense. I had been once told by a good friend that the key to finding
happiness was to keep things simple. I decided to do exactly that. She
addresses so many dimensions of human experience in her writing where she

engages with the arts, political activism, feminism,
discrimination, the environment and the transpersonal. In the first essay of
Solnit’s ‘A Field Guide for Getting Lost’ called ‘Open Door’2 she makes a
connection to Virginia Woolf’s ‘To the Lighthouse” in which Woolf writes about walking
and declares “As we step out of the house on a fine evening between four and
six, we

shed the self that our friends know us by and become part of that
vast republican army of anonymous trampers, whose society is so agreeable after
the solitude of one’s room…Into each of these lives one could penetrate a
little way, far enough to give one the illusion that one is not tethered to a
single mind, but can put on briefly for a few minutes the bodies and minds of

others.” Solnit writes that for Woolf, getting lost was not a
matter of geography so much as identity, a passionate desire, even an urgent
need, to become no one and anyone, to shake off the shackles that remind you
who you are, who others think you are.3 In reading this, I knew I would have
to abide by such concepts for I have been tied down by my own shackles,
stigmatized by

my past mistakes. I yearned to become rid of such shackles,
knowing that some kind of life revision was necessary. I would have to quite
literally lose the person who I used to be in order to understand what lead me
to be who I am now; or who I’d become.

My appreciation of Solnit has much to do with the quality of her
writing, the

thoughtfulness
and honesty with which she touches the human soul and the range of human

experience
she addresses. Other than making the connection to Virginia Woolf and the idea
of getting lost being divorced from geography, Solnit writes an anecdote prior
to this in the same essay about a Passover Seder where I draw several
connections to my own work. On Passover

what is celebrated is the Jewish Exodus from Egypt in which the
Israelites escaped slavery. The Israelites were ultimately freed from slavery
and wandered the desert for forty years before making it to the Israel, their
‘promised land’. Before having read Solnit, I had been struggling to

find a source of connection to one facet of my identity, being
Jewish. Two Passovers ago, with this story in mind, was when I made the
decision to travel throughout and photograph the deserts as an exercise, not
because I was running from any form of enslavement (perhaps a form of self enslavement)

but because I was truly “lost” within my own practice of making
purposeful

images.
Upon reading Solnit, I found that I wasn’t alone. When Solnit writes about this
Seder, she focuses on another tradition; during Passover, we set out a glass of
wine for the Jewish prophet Elijah and we crack the door open to allow him in.
I don’t believe that any such prophet is coming in though said door but in
reality, we are leaving the door open to the unknown, into

the dark. “That is where the most important things come from.” she
writes. “That thing of nature of which is totally unknown to you I usually what
you need to find, and finding it is a matter of getting lost” Things come
around full circle. “The important thing is not that Elijah might show up, the
important thing is that the doors are left open to the dark every year.” Open
to change,

transformation and whatever may come. Predictability is something
that has no room in the lives of those who are on a journey of getting lost. I
now choose to place myself in situations where familiarity and security cease
to exist. I have ventured into experiences without thinking about

the consequences for good or for worse. I’ve come out battered and
bruised but reaped life lessons that I couldn’t have internalized any other
way.

Encountering uncomfortable situations has allowed me to create a
new perspective on the people and the world around me. It has allowed me to
make work I previously didn’t think I was capable of. I begin to realize that
the formula for a viable existence and a successful practice is to

rid oneself of all expectations. By shedding all unwanted
inhibitions and just allowing the current of life to pull one whichever way it
pleases, I have found that getting lost by definition of Solnit is a choice.

In Solnit’s ‘The Faraway Nearby’4 she writes of her
experience with her mother who was not an easy person. She writes in great
detail what it means to grasp the social construction of

‘motherhood’, along with its trials and tribulations. She offers
ways of being with and thinking about the detail of our lives. One of the most
relevant questions she posed was “Where else do you get your mothering from?”
This invited my own contemplation on where else did I get my mothering from or
in other words, where do we get our nourishment and caretaking? Strangely

what first comes to mind is Dorthea Lange’s infamous Migrant
Mother photograph5 and the controversy over it, I digress. Making visual
work for me is a form of sustenance, a minding, and an appreciating. The planet
is our habitat, that which holds our existence and something I continue to be
in awe of; mother earth. I wonder of how my images speak to what I love and

what holds me. They are deeply personal and hopefully that
transcends the personal to touch others. How we need to take care of and tend
to what we love, and then manage how painful it is to witness so much
destruction and hatred, whilst working out what an appropriate response could
be. Image making as refuge also comes to mind. Part of that refuge is creating
a space to think, Solnit’s thinking inspires and extends my own.

1 Solnit, Rebecca. A Field Guide to Getting Lost. Langara
College, 2018.

2 Woolf,
Virginia. To the Lighthouse. Macmillan Collector’s Library, 2017.

3 “Open
Door.” FIELD GUIDE TO GETTING LOST, by REBECCA SOLNIT,

CANONGATE
CANONS, 2017.

4 Solnit, Rebecca. The Faraway Nearby. Granta Books, 2014.

5 Dorothea
Lange, photographer. Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven
children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo,

California. 1936.
U.S. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information. Prints &
Photographs Division.