Reducing a person to a sobbing heap is a rare trick for any artist. But for photographer Diggy Lloyd, it often happens before she's even pressed her shutter release.
"It hits them without warning," she says of the millennials she has been shooting and interviewing for her 20-Something series, on traveling display throughout Wynwood during III Points. "A lot of the time, it becomes a therapy session.
"This is a generation that when we get ready to go out, we know it's going to be documented on the internet somehow. They're used to being photographed, but all anyone asks us is 'How's it going?' "
All too infrequently do people answer with, "I don't want to sound like an asshole," or a confession that one's life goal is to be "a MILF." Not so here.
Depending upon one's disposition toward 20-somethings, Lloyd's subjects may be idealized lust objects or a checklist of people to bludgeon. (For what it's worth, Lloyd has been told that people have been bringing pictures from the series to their hairdressers for inspiration.)
Similarly, the answers might tell a universal story of the struggle to find one's identity, or they could reinforce every last millennial stereotype.
No one asked vets fresh from Guadalcanal: "What do you want to be when you grow up?" But the 20-somethings' handwritten answers to this question, displayed beside their photographs, range from the monosyllabic to cramped, heavily revised scrawl that an ATF agent might bag with tweezers.
Responses strive toward personal fulfillment, vague notions of entrepreneurship, or improbable careers in the arts and elsewhere -- "explorer," "astronaut," and "outer space explorer" all get mentions. Lloyd notes it "was one of the most difficult economic times as we were graduating. Getting a job and working and all the things that America was built on, they were gone."
A fashion and art photographer by trade, Lloyd typically recalls blurred and half-remembered last nights in her work. The 20-Something images, however, are crisp and uniform. Lloyd has imposed a strict visual homogeneity: always the same five questions; always identically lit, identically framed monochromes shot against a white background.
"There's so much in it about removal," she says of having forgone color and context in favor of isolated faces and answers.
Twenty-somethings have always assembled their identities from their fontanel personalities. But what's different, Lloyd says, is "you make your LinkedIn profile to get a job. You make your OKCupid account to get a husband. Those two people are probably different people."
Sarah Moody, a Miami-based artist also participating in III Points, planned her answers before entering Lloyd's studio.
"I wanted to believe completely in the answers I wrote," Moody says, "not only so the portrait of me was true to myself [and] to my peers, but so I honestly portray myself right now as a 20-something to refer to later in life."
The portraits do resemble acting headshots for people auditioning to play themselves in posterity. The questions are like the resumé on the verso. In addition to exhibiting the series in Wynwood, Lloyd will expand it with the aid of a mobile studio. The series comprises more than 400 images, beginning with a self-portrait.
Lloyd looks easily pocketed and sports freshly ruffled short blond hair. It seems impossible that she could ever be something other than a 20-something. But before she was a 20-something, she was a 14-exactly. That's when a chance meeting with famed American photographer Mary Ellen Mark at Lloyd's Ohio high school led to working on-and-off in the latter's New York studio.
"She told me not to be a photographer. 'Don't do it -- it's over,' " Lloyd recalls. But Mark also taught Lloyd to become as close as possible to her subject matter before shooting. " 'Be nosy!'"
So what did Lloyd learn from her subjects? When rising oceans subsume our Bushwicks and Wynwoods, relief organizations will know to airdrop coffee, "MUSIC!!!" and "my mom" on the stranded. And while friends and lovers are frequently listed as the most indispensable to these 20-somethings, "my handsome mangina" is also rightfully treasured.
If there's little room left on the relief plane, leave the crossed-out "Good Food" on the tarmac and instead send to one grinning beardo some "women, weed & weather."
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"One girl in particular, her favorite thing about herself was that she always overtips. Then she crossed it out and put that it was her sexuality." Lloyd says the "cross-outs, the misspellings, are always very indicative. That they're handwritten makes the answers closer to a journal entry than a questionnaire."
Toward the bottom of one page, a 20-something has scribbled over all of her initial answers to "What do you worry about?" before settling on "Everything."
Diggy Lloyd's roving studio and exhibition will be at locations throughout Wynwood this Friday and Saturday, October 10 and 11, starting at Wynwood Walls. She will participate in a panel discussion on photography with Sarah Moody and other artists Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at the LAB Miami. Visit 20some-thing.com to see Lloyd's growing series of portraits.