Consume and other works

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Consume and other works
Essman, Whitney Charlene
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The body of work I am presenting for my thesis project represents the growth of my work in pursuit of my Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Florida. My artistic interest has progressed from a specific focus on documentary photography to a more dynamic mixture of media, which now includes writing and design, and a drive to employ narrative strategies in my works. Conceptually, I am primarily concerned with the vast structure of American social inequality and the communities and industries affected by it. I often take a humanistic approach to these ideas and seek a personal connection to my subject in each work. The works included in my portfolio are as follows: a series of black and white photographs depicting details of the small working-class town outside Gainesville in which I live; a collection of colorful, ironic postcards made from photos of an aging South Florida tourist attraction; humorous line drawings based on photos taken at a competitive local dog show; a book documenting a deeply personal month-long performance about negative self-image; and my final project (currently in progress), which is a satirical food magazine that critically and comically explores American food culture as it relates to social class. All of these works encapsulate the growth of my voice and process, culminating in a final project that ambitiously combines my strongest skills – writing, design, and narrative – with my ongoing focus on social inequality. ( en )
General Note:
Awarded Bachelor of Fine Arts, magna cum laude, on May 8, 2018. Major: Art. Emphasis/Concentration: Creative Photography
General Note:
College or School: College of the Arts
General Note:
Advisor: Anthea Behm. Advisor Department or School: Creative Photography

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University of Florida
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University of Florida
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Copyright Whitney Charlene Essman. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.

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whitney essman portfolio of selected works 2016-2018 Using strategies of design and documentary photography, along with the device of ironic humor, I create works with emphasis on tone and detail to form expressive portraits of places and contemporary issues in America. I am drawn to conceptual questions that address the impact of social status and the changing American economy. world? How do our distinct lives and situations relate to these ideas on individual and systemic levels? These questions drive my practice and are the primary ideas around which I base my work.


This piece is an untitled series of four black and white photographic prints, taken in 35mm and processed in the darkroom. They are characterized aesthetically with symmetry, signage, and texture. I took them in a small rural town outside Gainesville, one of many places where Americas shifting socio-economic landscape comes into focus. The images deliberately echo classic Dust Bowl photography, tying them to another period of great change in our history, so that when presented without explanation they seem timeless. Each photograph is deliberately empty shelf. As a complete series they open a window into a resilient place that has been largely left behind by its nations economy. Untitled series Gelatin silver prints 8 x 10 2016


Where You Vacation Digital photography and imaging 4 x 6 2017


In its most basic form, Where You Vacation is a series of ten postcards I made using photos I shot at a tourist attraction in Fort Lauderdale. For the group exhibition where the work was originally shown, I had ten of each postcard printed and displayed in a revolving rack with a sign that said Sunshine Souvenirs, and sold them for $0.25, or anything a viewer had that they wanted to throw away. I used text slogans in trite fonts to make the postcards appear dated and absurd. I enhanced the images vivid colors to amplify the aesthetic of 20th century consumerism. The mass production and cheap sale of the cards is meant to reference the low quality of most products and experiences aimed at tourists, and the type of labor that goes into them.


All About That Breed Digital illustration 4.5 x 6.5 2017


All About That Breed is an ironically titled series of nine black and white illustrations. I used images I shot backstage at a local dog show as basis for digital drawings. I created the simple, minimalist sketch-style drawings to depict a cross-section of a subculture that, previously, I had only seen in satire. This was an event where people gathered to spend exorbitant amounts of time and money collecting dog creden tials. As an illustrator, I was able to infuse the work with humor and to gain and share some insight into


Millstone Performance and documentation 8 x 10 2017


Millstone is an exploration of my perceived emotional and psychological shortcomings, projected onto a physical object which I carried around in an endurance performance and which I documented and presented in the form of a book. I created a rudimentary cloth dummy, roughly my own dimensions, documenting the experience with photographs, video and daily journal entries with my thoughts, feel provides context and detail, and reads in a linear format that allows for the viewer to experience the timeline of the work chronologically.


Consume Written material, digital illustration and photography 8.5 x 11 2018


Consume is a satirical exploration of the relationship between food and class as represented through pes paired with digital photos and illustrations. I created all of the content to juxtapose ideas of high-sta tus food with low-status food. By doing this, I aim to highlight the absurdity that has colored the Amer ican approach to food culture, and the ways that social inequality plays into this.