Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Lauren E. Simonutti (1968 - 2012)

I met Lauren E. Simonutti when Ego Likeness went out for a photo shoot for the Water to the Dead album. We walked over to her house from Angel Fall Studios (now home to Charm City Cakes of Ace of Cakes). Hidden in a little Baltimore row home was an amazing installation of art. Walls covered in news print and pages from books, cracked plaster and remnants of wallpaper lovingly stenciled with vines, mirrors and pictures arranged obsessively in small corners. It was like a movie set piece from a great art director. Lauren was one of the last of the film photographers and had a 4 minute exposure on a large plate antique camera. She playfully made fun of me for ruining a shot because I keep reading the brand name of the lens over and over again making my eyes spiral and blurry. Later on as the rest of the band faded away I had a solo shoot with her. I have an outtake shot of me against a brick wall. It's an over done band trope but she suggested it and she had a brilliant way with composition that we trusted her instinct to make something of it. This is the shot I choose because Steve told me to, and because I was more engaging with the puppet than I was with the camera. The other shot lives on the fireplace mantle.
Lauren was diagnosed with "rapid cycling, mixed state bipolar with schizoaffective disorder" about that time. There were very obvious episodes in the past but this time it manifested suddenly with hearing voices while listing to a new recording. She was honest, upfront and very funny about this and I remember her joking about lithium springs and batteries as a source for what was keeping her grounded at the moment.
She had episodes, as everyone does, but at greater amplitude. I left the band, and moved out of the neighborhood. Every so often I would drive by her house and wonder if she was still there. I found an answer this week and I think the 500 Photographers blog said in a most simple and correct way: "Lauren E. Simonutti, 1968, USA, passed away last week due to complications from her illness."
This is incredibly sad, but not unexpected. It was plain to see that this might happen the same way a weak heart might stop or a cancer might have spread. It was the result of being overtaken, not of giving in.
This is on the heals of someone else I knew loosing the same battle. I didn't even know that she was anything but amazing and full of life. I was shocked and surprised, and then kind of mad, angry that I would never get to know her and that so many of my friends were deeply hurting. The same sort of un-resolved feelings are still present for a death much closer to me of one of my campers who I greatly admired and seemed to follow in my footsteps. When it happened I briefly went to the memorial, which I left fairly quickly instead of letting it all out with friends. I numbed my self that night and went to work hurting the next day to finish a project. After mentioning missing the burial for what was scheduled to be a long and crappy day of work my coworker none the wiser said "sometimes someone isn't meant for this world". I thanked him for the intent of his comment instead of decking him.
Lauren did leave me with a gift through what as far as I know was her last project. I have a better understanding of others mental illness and forgiveness. Lauren Simonutti , Tasha Kniep, and Walter Carpenter, I can see the peace that you sought and I feel sad once again, but with an acceptance or at least an understanding that has been missing.
Here is a link to the 500photographers tribute to Lauren Simonutti. It is a honest and straight look in to who she was at that time.
Please everyone, take care of your self physically, spiritually (what ever that means to you), emotionally and mentally. There is always someone who loves you and there will be happiness, trust me on this.

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