Photographer and graduate student Amber Law plans to showcase her thesis project, with the working title “Wanderlust,” within the next year.
Law grew up in a conservative, Pentecostal household in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and resided there until she decided to make a 12-hour move to attend graduate school at ETSU.
“It felt freeing and terrifying at the same time,” Law said.
Prior to graduate school, Law chose to photograph herself because she knew what type of pictures she wanted and was able to explore who she was as an artist.
“Whenever I came here, I decided I needed to get out of my comfort zone of photographing myself,” Law said.
“I felt kind of lost and foreign in a way.”
Law said she thought to herself, “Who could I meet, and who is accessible and reliable that I could photograph for the next three years?”
She then made the decision to join the International Buccaneer Buddy organization, which became a source of inspiration.
“I had a couple of buddies for a year, and I convinced them to let me photograph them in their dorms,” Law said.
She preferred to photograph them in their own rooms because it provided a sense of temporary belonging and an intimacy that seemed to be lacking when a person moves away.
Over time, Law began to realize she didn’t want her project to necessarily just pertain to international students but to focus more on the courage it takes for a person to leave the comfort of his or her home and loved ones to go to a place where he or she isn’t sure what will happen.
“At the college age, you always move off, you end up staying in a dorm or an apartment, and you call it your home, but it’s not your home,” she said.
“When you travel in hotel rooms, it’s a very transient lifestyle like couchsurfing — hostels — it’s all temporary, but how do you make yourself feel comfortable in a space that some stranger was sleeping in the night before?”
However, she said she felt there was an element still missing from the project.
“I’m already going to be in Europe part of this summer with a ceramics class to Italy,” Law said.
“But I’m hoping to get a grant or funding to stay two weeks longer and travel throughout the home countries of the people I’ve been photographing here.”
Law has photographed ETSU students from a variety of different places, including England, Spain, Denmark, Germany and Serbia.
“Since it’s still in progress, I don’t know how it’s going to go,” she said. “But I would like it to be a comparison between their childhood home and their home here.”
As a side project, Law plans to photograph herself in each of the students’ homes she travels to.
“I feel like that would make an interesting dynamic,” Law said.
In spring 2016, Law plans to showcase her photographs in a gallery.
Her dream is to have about 10 life-sized images on aluminum — each image is estimated to cost $1,200 — with a bedroom environment for viewers to interact with.
“When a viewer looks at my photograph, I want a sense of nostalgia,” Law said. “I want to evoke a certain memory or emotion of them in the same situation or environment.”
Law said her project was inspired by a case of wanderlust.
“I have this huge wanderlust issue,” she said.
“I’m always wanting to be somewhere else. I’m in a place thinking about going to the next place.”