WHAT IS THIS?
Hi, my name is Whit Forrester.
I am kickstarting to raise money for a photography project that, after 3 months of field research and work, will culminate in a limited run artist book and exhibition this fall. I have already received a $2k grant from the Albert P. Weisman foundation in support of the project, along with being invited to participate in an exhibition taking place September 8 - October 16 in Chicago. I will be spending the summer in San Francisco, Oakland, Lake, Humboldt and Mendocino County in California using the camera to do more documentation of the specific ways in which the Queer and Trans community intersects with Cannabis growing culture - both its current practices and its rich history. This summer’s work will be made collaboratively, taking form as a photodocumentation project looking at the 1996 legalization of Cannabis in California through the Compassionate Use Act and it's deep connection to the HIV and AIDS epidemic. It is a continuation of a project which I have been working on for the last 3 years documenting Queer Cannabis Culture and will continue working on into the future. While previous work has taken a documentary approach, this will be a series of conceptual portraits creating educational still-lives with the participants. I historically have used color and black and white film, as well as Polaroids all of which I will be using again to keep the structure consistent. I plan on this work informing the future expansion and development of my creative practice. I will continue to be working closely with Cultivation Professor Joey Ereñeta of Oaksterdam University.
Within all of my work, I begin with my own experience as an opportunity to show my own relationship to this community and the ways in which we all are continuing to support each other: those who are connected through the Cannabis industry, in addition to individuals adjacent to it. The fabric of history is predicated upon interpersonal relationships, and it is from them that the story of AIDS, Cannabis cultivation and distribution, and Queer identity become the tapestry which is the subject of this project. My ultimate vision of this hands on creative research project is to branch out with consideration of things to come - looking at the radical potential of Cannabis as a metaphorical departure point into a future that is radically transformed through a relationship to Cannabis.
Kickstarter support is important to the completion of this stage of my project. The funds raised will directly support the materials needed to complete this segment of the work. The most expensive element of this project is the film and the development costs. Despite all the gains we've made digitally, large format color film is still virtually unsurpassable in terms of quality of the image. It is comparable to the shortfalls of digital sound versus the richness and complexity in a vinyl record. That being said, $45 gets me 10 sheets of film. I plan on shooting around 250 sheets of images. Any additional funds raised will go directly into the future success of this ongoing project - i.e. future supplies, travel expenses, exhibition and publishing costs, et al.
As the political terrain surrounding Cannabis changes, the shadow of corporate co-optation looms large. We have already in the short 4 years that I have been involved in California seen the introduction of machines that can do the job of people in half the time. As with all movements, there is a point at which they are co-opted, and the diversity which they stood for becomes dislocated and forgotten. The arc of history leans towards justice in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, but it also depends on who's writing down. This project is us writing it down.
What this means is that, again, at the end of the day, I am interested in celebrating *more* than *just* the Queer and Trans contribution to the story of legalization. I am interested in the opportunity to use the thread of my own story which is part of one particular design inside a much larger tapestry, as a means to better investigate, understand, and eventually share this larger story and images with a greater audience. The camera has historically been a tool of power, and projects like this recentralize that power in places that have had reduced access to it historically. This project is utilizing the camera as a tool for constructing a Queer worldhood - one based on inclusion versus exclusion. This work celebrates the value of community and its power to provide healing connections - this is a way for me to allow others to access the story and inherently join the conversation.
A (VERY) BRIEF BACKGROUND
Since 1996 the use of medicinal cannabis has skyrocketed. Over half of the states in the US have decriminalized it, legalized it for medical purposes or completely legalized it for recreational use. But the actual floodgate event that opened the doors for this was the Compassionate Use Act in 1996. This legislation legalized Medical Cannabis in California, and was due to a coalition of people struggling with chronic and terminal illnesses whose suffering, and sometimes conditions, were alleviated through the usage of Cannabis. The depression, the trauma and much of the physical pain associated with these conditions and the medicines used to treat them was and continues to be alleviated through Cannabis in varying quantities.
The legislation and momentum was fueled by underground cultivation and distribution of medicine, all possible because of the aforementioned interpersonal connections and trust between individuals and communities. Also vital was the community support that far exceeded the typical services being provided at the time. Because of the HIV and AIDS epidemic, the Queer and Trans community had a significant number of people who were looking towards Cannabis to alleviate the affiliated suffering. Pharmaceutical industries, of course, had options but these are costly and with side effects that far exceed those of the aforementioned. The Compassionate Use Act thus drew a significantly large amount of support from folks living with HIV and AIDS, many of whom were from the Queer and Trans community. In this legacy, we have continued to cultivate and organize within our networks, developing community ties and relationships through the processes of cultivation and manicuring medicine.
The video intentionally does not go into the very real relationship that Cannabis possesses in relation to the abuses of law enforcement on our lives, though this is a very, very real and important part of the story. I felt that with all the attention right now around what is happening in Baltimore, and the national attention directed at the ongoing racism of the police, that this could end up benefitting the project in a way that I would rather not intentionally or unintentionally play off of financially from crowdsourcing. I do understand though that the way in which this project does confront this reality is lived by many people every day, however the actual project I am asking for help in funding is a photography project looking at the Queer contribution to the legalization of Cannabis. The actual outcome of my research and creative work will be guided by the people I am working and engaging with over the next few months. If you would like more clarification on this or have any questions, please do not hesitate drop me a line. The connection is real, and I look forward to meeting with people interested in this work.
As of right now I have established sites in three different counties and 2 major cities in California that I am confirmed to work in and shoot photographs. I will also be working part time (10 hours a week) as a courier to cover my food and gas costs. I have also begun conversations with a handful of professionals and curators in the fields of fine art and photography, including:
- David Bram - Fraction Magazine
- Jennifer Schwartz - Crusade for Art
- Maiza Hixson - Delaware Center for Contemporary Arts
- Ann Jastrab - Rayko Photo Center
- Karen Irvine - Museum of Contemporary Photography
They have been, and continue to be, mentors and guides for this project. I will have a homebase in the San Francisco Bay Area of California and Rayko Photo Center will function as my home base for analyzing, scanning and working on the project through one of their monthly lab passes while I complete fieldwork this summer.
This particular branch of the project culminates in 2 things. One is an exhibition; the other is a limited run artist book. The work moves between personal narrative and photo-documentation with the camera functioning as tool for collective storytelling and meta-reflection. For me, this is a practice successfully employed by other artists and photographers throughout history, it is a conceptually important one whenever you are making work in community - to situate yourself and your own experience within the work but simultaneously allow for others to make work with you. As Zanele Muholi most recently was quoted as saying in the "Queer" Aperture issue, people in a photograph are participants.
In honor of your support I will be offering:
Limited Run Artists Books - handbound, printed on archival inkjet paper
A Zine - with background info and stories behind the images. There will be an E-zine version of this, with more in the physical document.
Archival prints - These will be either 4x5, or 16x20 archival pigment prints
Impossible Project Black and White Polaroids - These are an important part of the previous work that I've done on this topic.
Collector's Portfolios - All of the above. For anyone who wants to get in on the ground floor with an emerging artist.
Studio Visits - Where the supporter gets to visit my studio, pick up their reward and hang out for tea.
Portraits - Of you or your loved ones. These will be contingent upon your visit to Chicago, or to connecting at some point within the next six months.
THE GRANT COVERS:
- Kickstarter video - $550
- Bookmaking supplies - $240
- Light Meter (replacing broken unit) - $350
- A Month at the Rayko Center - $160
- A home base in the San Francisco Bay Area that isn't my Honda Hatchback - $700
- A huge box of double a batteries - $15
- 300 sheets of 4x5 film - $1,350
- Development costs - $1,200
- Gas money to get me there - $300
- And back - $300
- Gas to get around to the different sites - $450
TOTAL - $3,015
Kickstarter gets approx. 10% = $301.50
GRAND TOTAL - $3,316.50
IF I GET ABOVE MY GOAL
- A 4x5 that is mine and not rented - $1,200
- Used studio lights - $800
STRETCH TOTAL - $5,216.50
Again, this project does not stop at this series, but instead will be one stop in a larger, ongoing, project. I plan on doing as much in California as I can during July and August, and eventually branching out into Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Kentucky. I have personal connections in each of those places who have unique experiences in the growing industry historically and within the present moment. This project represents a milestone in the work, and I plan on pooling as many resources as necessary forward - I think the story is important. In the past I have lived out of my car at times to help make this field research possible, have sold most extraneous belongings on eBay to raise money for the work, and I don't regret it for a second - every sacrifice has been worth it. I am finally at a point with the work that I feel like it is relevant to people besides just myself; it is moving into a territory which is relevant to me, the Queer and Cannabis communities, and the greater society at large.
Thanks so much for taking the time to get through it all! If you have any questions, or wanna collaborate, lemme know!
Risks and challenges
This is a relatively low risk investment on all sides.
It is currently, federally, changing. The Obama administration has openly asked the Feds to not pursue the issue actively. States are increasingly falling in line, legalizing it to some degree. That being said, one of the main risks and challenges is coupling imagery of Cannabis with people. I have sought to minimize this by making sure that the people in my pictures are a) aware that I am taking a picture
b) participants and or collaborators in the picture making process
c) either have a prescription or are aware of the process for getting one - a kind of know-your-rights de-brief
-I am doing nothing outside of the legal limitations around Cannabis in this project.
-I am legally authorized to be purchasing, possessing, consuming and around Medical Cannabis in the State of California.
-All that aside, there is virtually no risk with the photography project currently.
-It's an ongoing project - and will continue to be embedded in future work and creative development.
-An exhibition of the completed work has already been confirmed for fall 2015.
-I have a long history of making quality work, individually and in collaboration. Check out my CV on my website.
- (29 days)