The images photographer Jamil Hellu has made during his Recology residency explore a range of ideas related to identity and portraiture. Examining how we create and negotiate our identities throughout our lives, Hellu looks at our memories via objects, and contemplates the pivotal influences that shape who we are. The work questions the shifting nature of identity and the many roles we play in our personal and professional lives. In some cases, Hellu places the things he has photographed alongside their images and brings poignancy to mundane yet once cherished items. He also replicates scenes in found photographs that are simultaneously humorous and touching, pointing to commonalities between seemingly different people.
The work also explores identity in crisis and what it means to dispose of key markers of identity in a place like the public dump. If throwing away things, especially photographs, is a metaphor for the loss of individual identity, then the dump pile, becomes a homogenous monument to general human experience. Illustrating this is Hellu’s shredded pile of one hundred nineteen snapshots of people at the Golden Gate Bridge—both a permanent erasure of these specific memories and an evocation of the universal significance this destination holds in people’s lives. Other photographs expand on this Bay Area and California love, as well as a love of photography itself.
Special thanks to Matthew Gottschalk, Deborah Munk, Sharon Spain, Micah Gibson, and all the Recology team.