Terry LaRue, living in Seattle, Washington, is an artist that uses photography and printmaking to explore his inner struggles with chronic pain, depression and addiction. In 2014, he was diagnosed with a rare pain condition called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, considered the most painful thing anyone can experience. Anything that touches his skin can cause him excruciating pain. For the next three years, he would dive deeper into depression as he was fighting to hold on to anything that would keep his life going. This felt nearly impossible due to the pain and treatments he was undergoing, completely discarding his personal life and looking for a cure that would never come. The pain would eventually spread from his hands to his feet, and eventually his thighs, paralyzing his left thumb and losing mobility in his legs. Deciding to turn his life around and find hope and purpose, Terry picked up photography and started exploring his inner self allowing him to distract from the constant pain and work through difficult emotions.
Using printmaking by teaching himself gravure photo etching allows him to press the images into paper, trapping the image and emotions that come with it outside of himself. This process will enable him to move on and become free. Making prints out of his pain by manually rubbing ink into etched metal plates. This is a masochistic approach to removing it from himself but the rewards are much higher than the pain. Terry shares his images and prints in hopes that others struggling with pain and addiction can connect to his prints, feeling less alone.
Leica Gallery exhibition
contact info: [email protected]
Patricia Lanza : Discuss your career from its beginning in filmmaking to your transition to still photography?
Terry LaRue : I loved skateboarding from a young age and was failing school so I dropped out and focused on creating skateboarding videos. For many years my only goal was to make a set of stairs or obstacle look as big as possible while documenting the movement and style of the skateboarder on video. I was most intrigued by capturing people doing things that had never been done before and push their limits of what is possible, no matter what the danger. Little did I know I would eventually flip this on myself to combat chronic pain in a single image instead of 60 frames per second in video.
Patricia Lanza : How has photography shaped, affected and contributed to your life?
Terry LaRue : My life now revolves around photography. It is my propose for getting out of bed and pushing past the pain throughout the day. It’s the reason to take one more step, to push a little further into my internal landscape. The constant search for discovery with the reward or my images somehow telling me something I didn’t know about myself have helped me grow and accept the situation I’m in. It doesn’t mean I’m not in pain or content with constantly being in pain, but there is now something growing from it that can be gratifying. Even if I’m the only one viewing the image from that angle. For someone with chronic pain this is really important to have. Pain is selfish and will take everything from you and my job is to combat that and using creativity through photography was my way. Giving me self-worth and some sense of purpose. Something that pain doesn’t like you to know you have but a camera can show with the push of a button if you’re open.
Patricia Lanza : What is your process in the making of the prints for your current exhibition at the Leica Gallery?
Terry LaRue : Print making is one of the most important parts of photography for me. I feel an image isn’t complete until it’s on or in paper. I wanted my prints to be archival, handmade and something that represents my struggles and emotions. Something that wasn’t easy for me to achieve especially with only one almost working hand. This is why I chose gravure photo etching as my primary printing method. This is where I etch the image into a plate and physically rub oil-based ink into the recesses and whipping away the excess ink on top to expose the highlights. Then using an etching gravure press I press the plate into damp printmaking paper forcing the image inside of the fibers of the paper. This is a very manual process that does create extra pain for me to do, but I feel that I’m trapping the soul of the image to live outside of me and in the paper.
Patricia Lanza : Frames Between the Pain. What is the meaning of the exhibition title?
Terry LaRue : Frame between the pain for me is the moment that I’m so focused on capturing an image I enter an almost meditative state. I’m only thinking about framing an image to capture that moment, It’s one of the few moments I have found I’m not thinking about the pain I’m experiencing. Allowing my internal landscape to show me what is lying beneath and letting me move on and grow.
Patricia Lanza : What are your current plans for the Leica touring exhibition and what are you working on presently?
Terry LaRue : The exhibition will be traveling to Leica gallery Bellevue near Seattle after Los Angeles and hopefully a few more galleries after. As for what I’m currently working on it’s hard to say. I’m constantly photographing and printing my ideas as they flow in. With my approach, I don’t like to restrain myself to a project or theme outside of my print making restraints of black and white. I like wandering and creating things randomly as I feel through life. My pain levels and mental states are changing constantly so I have to adapt to that. It’s like throwing paint at a canvas then seeing something forming. I feel these splashes of paint are my mistakes that I embrace and follow until another splash of paint lands taking me in another direction without being connected to the first splash. Because I create as therapy above anything else this freedom gives me no chains and endless opportunity for distraction as I don’t know what I will be creating tomorrow and I can flow free and adapt to my body and emotions instead of trying to bend them to match what I’m trying to create.