Jocelyn Allen


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Artist Feature

Every week an artist is featured whose single image was published by Der Greif. The Feature shows the image in the original context of the series.

Steven Zak - 21

Sep 09, 2015

21 is a series of photographs I took from September 2013 - June 2014. I wrote a statement describing this work while I was still taking these photographs: "I hadn’t felt truly alone until I felt like an alien in my own family. Living on my own was working out until finances slimmed and paying the bills became a struggle. I’d entered into a depression and all I had to look to was my sister’s similar, but more pronounced decline into dependency and addiction. I couldn’t compromise these ideas of what life felt like, and the life my parents wanted for my sister and I. Their move across the ocean felt like abandonment; as the phone calls became less frequent, I began to lie, about my sister, about how my day was, leaving the webcam off. I wanted to keep their dream alive, at least in terms of my sister, so they could worry less. The support system I had felt cold and oppressive. They knew enough to try and help, but not enough to feel worry, not the kind that I felt. The process of photographing became like an examination, of my relationships and of myself. Photographing empowered me, waking me from this dream that my life had become." As I've had some distance from this project, how I feel about it has changed quite a bit. I had been desperately trying to fix a broken relationship with my sister, hoping that my love would be enough. These photographs showed me how broken things had become, and I was searching for any proof that I was valued. It's strange to have documented so well this time in my life I don't have fond memories of.

Artist Blog

The blog of Der Greif is written entirely by the artists who have been invited to doing an Artist-Feature. Every week, we have a different author.


Sep 13, 2015 - Steven Zak

For my final post I wanted to share some new photographs I have been making recently. The work is still quite new and in progress. I've moved to Warsaw about one year ago and have been photographing scenes from my life trying to adjust to both a language barrier and a different culture, as well as scenes from my parent's lives who are retired now in a small village. I had moved here because I felt something unfinished in photographing my parents, and I had a window in my life where I could leave the U.S. I've flipped the script in a way, as when they emigrated to the U.S., much of their dealings with the outside world were conducted through their children, who had a mastery of English, and I find myself in a reverse situation very often. Coming here has been in many ways been eye-opening. I live by myself in the city and find I speak Polish no better than a child. It should encourage me to learn, but it had the reverse effect of wanting to be isolated. It's made me grow a stronger interest in immigrant culture, and the notion of assimilation that the English speaking world so rarely experiences now.


Sep 12, 2015 - Steven Zak

Today I wanted to share some pictures from an older series. This was the first time I photographed any subject I had a passion for, and the act of photographing was something that deepened my relationship with my family. I owe something to my camera for that, because without it I may have lived a completely different life, probably a bit more lonely. I started photographing my family at a time when it was announced my parents would leave the country, and it felt like the beginning of the end. This was not a clean break, they would leave my sister to be a single mother, and with a financial situation that was unstable at best. I felt the need to photograph this moment in time where we would all still be under the same roof. The American Dream had not been too great of a success for them, leaving them with old bodies that cost more to take care of then they could earn, and children that sucked their resources like leeches, in the name of love. I wanted to preserve this familial bond as long as I could, as I knew it would wither away shortly after.


Sep 11, 2015 - Steven Zak

For my first post, I thought I would share some family snapshots, which were a huge source of inspiration for 21, and much of my work involving my family. I'm interested in how the snapshot appeals to the viewer as an unaltered document. As we've consumed so much imagery since the birth of the photograph, we've come to accept a level of artifice in all images, especially those we consider as art. Yet, why do we not bring this same critical eye to the snapshot? Perhaps because I had been raised with photos like these, I've accepted these photographs as more innocent. There's no conscious attempts to trick the viewer, no playing with perceptions. But as I've looked through the same archive over and over, I've begun to see that all of these photos can be so easily construed into something darker, just with sequencing and tiny manipulations. I adopted a kind of snapshot style because I think there's a kind of effortlessness to looking at them. The manipulations that I'm making as a photographer become disguised, my intentions seem innocent. I become a trustworthy narrator somehow, even though I leave things out and add things in to suit the narrative.