This is Water is inspired by a commencement speech by the writer, David Foster Wallace. He shared the story of two fish swimming along who meet an older fish swimming in the opposite direction.
The older fish asks “How’s the water, boys?” The two young fish swim on until one of them suddenly stops and asks, “What the hell is water?”
I love this parable and its reminder that while hard to see, essential things are all around us, hidden in plain sight. This project examines things above and below the surface, shifting mediums and bending light. In This is Water, I seek to transcend the reality of the subject to illuminate something of simple awareness and the elusive nature of truth.
Since light travels more easily through air than through water, the surface of the water acts as a lens, altering the angle of light—displacing what is beneath the water from what is above. It is possible to correct for refraction with wide-angle lenses, dome ports and filters. I do not want to correct it or use digital compositing. I make all images in-camera, embracing the optical distortions in service to disruption, fragmentation, and illusion.
I am drawn to the discomfort and tension that precede transition and emergence—that moment before surrendering to sleep, or surfacing from deep waters.
I am influenced by spending years in the HIV arena where I focused on holding space for conflict and collaboration in service to creation and change. As a visual artist, I see my role as that of midwife and mediator, exploring the ‘in-between’ places and forces that shape them. Family, memory, loss and reconciliation are themes I use to explore dissonance as a tool for transformation.
I believe in the power of creating space, inviting questions and critical thinking. Living in an increasingly divided world, I want to make photographs that spark a universal experience of both the everyday and the momentous—images that ignite reflection of what is known, what is unknown and the fertile ground in between.
About Ann Prochilo
Ann Prochilo (American, b. 1958) is a photographic artist based in Malta. Her narrative-driven photographs explore belonging, memory, and change. Born into a large family in Port Jefferson, New York, Prochilo is the chronological middle-child of six. Her vision and voice are shaped by a boisterous hierarchy of birth order and gender, musical theatre and public service. She splits her time between San Francisco and Malta with her fiancé.
Prochilo received a BA from Indiana University where she pursued dual interests in fine arts and medicine. She has had a wide-ranging career as midwife, AIDS activist and founder of an advocacy relations agency. After 15 years facilitating productive relationships between patient advocates and pharmaceutical companies, she returned to full-time arts practice.
Prochilo’s work has been exhibited in the United States and Europe. Besides This is Water, she is working on two other projects: Leaving Home, an artist book about an empty house, belonging and the indelible watermark of family; and Barumbara, an ongoing chronicle in these precarious times of pandemic, polemics and war. It explores how, when inundated, we may thrive or rebel or turn inward, protective and feral. [Official Website]