Julia Dunham is a conceptual photographer and artist working in New York City. She received her BFA in Photography from Pratt Institute in 2015 where she made her thesis work surveil. Surveil calls to question the voyeuristic nature of the internet and ubiquity of the surveillance state. Social media and techno-fear have permeated through her artistic practice. These fears and curiosities materialize in the work by pushing the limits of the digital and analog photography. Julia’s new work Springfield addresses growing up online and the inability to separate memory from a document. Growing up in a military family has greatly skewed the definition of home. Her interest in these subjects stems from her Catholic background and penchant for watching surveillance feeds online.
The concept of home has become equivalent to a tomb for my past. When I return, I rediscover the relics and bones that have petrified into this unremarkable place. Over the six years I spent in Springfield from 7th to 12th grade, I developed such a tight group of friends that we could only implode. Springfield and I still bear the shrapnel of what is often the most formidable years of a young girl’s life. I find myself missing something I tried so hard to forget. The houses are still there but the doors are locked. A twenty-four hour McDonald’s or a yellow rose or a song on the radio suddenly give me whiplash back to moments of passion and pain, embarrassment and guilt.
The skeletons of my teenagehood are very present to me. Social media captures a web of half-truths; every day a photograph or a note or a status appears ushering in a flood of memories that throw me back into the ties of puberty. All of which is memorialized by apathetic algorithms. I receive updates on how long I’ve been friends with people that I haven’t spoken to in years. Sometimes it feels like we are still friends because I can still see these fragmented happy moments they chose to share. Mostly, it makes me feel incredibly alone.
While I was home last I ran into someone I haven’t seen in years. We were out at the new late-night diner when she walked in with her new friends and I couldn’t help but stare at her. It was like putting something in the freezer and then realizing it’s still there after all this time. It’s disgusting and no longer fresh and you can’t believe you actually saved it. Yet you still wonder if you could just defrost it maybe it would still be good. Seeing her there like that was like seeing a doll move. I nearly forgot that she was real.
To view more of Julia’s work please visit her website.