First off, let me share my photos:
Some of these were harder to find than others, and for two I actually had to go back into the archive of pictures I’d previously taken. These were Fire Literal and Earth Literal. Fire Literal is the image of a sunset I took during the Fall near Stockton, New Jersey, and Earth Literal is a cute, little slug friend I found back in Summer.
For Fire Symbolic, I turned to my own physical wunderkammer to photograph a WW2 grenade. Don’t worry! Even though the pin is there, the part in the middle that actually ignites has been removed, so it’s completely harmless. To the left of the grenade is a piece of Trinitite, sand from the Nevada desert that was melted into a grainy, glass-like rock during atomic bomb tests. It is also harmless; the amount of radiation given off by small pieces of Trinitite is negligible. The can behind the grenade is a (still-sealed) can of drinking water from a 1950s bomb shelter. To the left of that is a WW2-era war ration booklet, and next to that is a lantern used by political activists of yesteryear. Sorry, I know not all of these are symbolic of fire, but I just couldn’t resist sharing anyway (my ‘kammer is my pride and joy).
Air Literal and Water Literal were both taken on the Kean University campus. Air Literal is steam rising from a grate, and Water Literal is the stream that runs through Main Campus by the Center for Academic Success.
Air Symbolic is a pen sketch that I quickly digitally painted over. It’s an imaginary creature I made up called a Miasmid. I imagine that Miasmids are corrupted Air Elementals.
Earth Symbolic is a picture I took in the Stroud Mall in Pennsylvania. Yes, that is a mall kiosk for a cemetery. I guess nothing completes a shopping experience like shopping for one’s own burial plot… I felt this cemetery kiosk embodied Earth because of the whole “memento mori” aspect. Shopping malls are often created with a purpose to make shoppers forget about the outside world, like little consumerist microcosms. This kiosk reminds shoppers, whether intentionally or not, that no matter how much humanity blocks out or sterilizes the world, we’ll all one day return to the Earth in one way or another.
Water Symbolic is a photograph of a painting of the Jersey Shore (Holy Baudrillard, Batman!) This particular painting hangs in the back office area of the Delaware Valley Family Health Center, where my late mother worked. When she passed, her coworkers got the painting to memorialize her because she loved the Jersey Shore so much.
This assignment was definitely unlike anything I expected, but it was fun. For some elements, I had a few pictures to choose from. For example, I was tempted to use a candle flame for Fire Literal, a sketch of another elemental monster for Earth Symbolic, and a picture of a coffee cup for Fire Symbolic. I decided against the candle flame because I just thought the sunset was more visually appealing; I decided against the sketch because a cemetery mall kiosk was too bizarre not to share, and I decided against the coffee cup because I wanted to share some of the contents of my wunderkammer. Yes, #selfindulgence again on that one.