Lest the social media age numbs us to glimpses into others’ lives, humans have always had a healthy interest in each other. Before we made careers of sharing the best moments of ourselves, it was basic curiosity that led to eavesdropping, peeking through fences, and making up stories for those we saw but didn’t know. Could it be that as our expectation of privacy has decreased, through staging and over-sharing, reviewing and comparing online, we have lost our desire, perhaps even our ability, to simply study humanity?
I had this in mind when I met Adán De La Garza in a coffee shop several months ago, where he was to share with me his small batch zine, Lurkin Hard. Adán is a professor and an artist of different mediums; and when it came to his own theories and discoveries via his zine, the conversation did not disappoint.
Even down to the dreamy, drippy appeal of the images. “Instagram has sort of changed the romantic aesthetic,” he said.
But back up. Here’s the story of Lurkin Hard. It started with some thrifting with a friend. There was a camera with undeveloped film at the shop. That age-old curiosity kicked in, and Adán bit. In fact, he was so drawn to the idea that he bought up bags and bags of film that he found in various second-hand stores. He had a student develop the film, describing their findings as, “Oddly precious.”
What gave Adán the idea for the zine? “I came up punk rock, skater--this felt like a natural outlet. Something is lost if you do it digitally. It’s nice to have a collection, and a zine felt more intentional.”
What it all came down to were the stories created from this disassociated look at people. “The conversations that emerge are great. On a website that feels too jumbled. And the project is about objects--the found film. So it made sense to create something physical.”
Discussion over the zine led to odd connections that came from the photographs—a co-worker who had a class with the young boy taking vintage-versions of selfies; the party-goer who recognized a photo the host had hung ironically as something from his childhood home.
“I think part of what’s interesting is that these images aren’t indicative of neglect--they’re light, pictures of life. So much of it is relatable. It’s almost manipulated happiness,” Adán said. “But they had to wind up in a thrift store because of some version of forgetfulness or non-importance. And in some ways, I don’t want to know. We prefer the mystery because the reality can be really dark.”
Collectively, Adán said that the project wasn’t so much about many stories, as one story. He pulls the images together in a way that allows the viewer to draw their own conclusions, create their own narratives.
“It’s how it relates to your own history,” he said.
What I walked away with, tucking the zines under my arm, was a mystery I could hold. With it in my hands, my imagination woke up, and I wondered about these people who would almost certainly always be strangers to me. But in that wondering, I was closer to them somehow, a broader look at life than what fits into a square tile on my phone.