How the Adobe Creative Residency Propelled My Artistic Motivation

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My passion for the arts and artistic dreams have been profoundly shaped by my long struggle with depression. It’s an illness often looked at by society as taboo, and it was an entirely foreign concept to me, as I had little knowledge about mental health issues when experiencing it.

My work, which initially focused heavily on self-portraits, reflected my depression, and for me, it became a way to both understand myself and educate others on issues of mental health. Art has always been my means of expression and the way in which I speak to the world, and so from this initial experience with depression sprouted a reoccurring theme: a focus on taboo topics and ignored populations. 

What began with my self-portraits, then continued with my 1001 Strangers photography project, recently came full circle with my “Beauty of Age” project, which started in Germany and focused on the often ignored elderly population. It was my proposal for “Beauty of Age” that earned me the acceptance into the Adobe Creative Residency program the second time I applied. 

@BeautyofAge – Instagram

My artistic vision has been influenced greatly by my time in the Adobe Creative Residency. As I approach the end of the program, I am grateful for the inspiration it has provided me and my fellow creatives to work even harder to shine a light on art in society. The program has given us guidance, insights, new outlets for expression and even advice on how to handle criticism of our work. It is an experience that will not only stay with me, but I believe will help propel me forward as an artist.

I’m committed to using art to move people and as a means to challenge society to confront topics that are ignored or tabooed. Shaped by my own struggles, I’ve sought to shine a light on unseen segments of society and in this case provide the aging population with a voice. Through the Adobe residency, that passion manifested in the “Beauty of Age” project I completed over the course of this past year. 

I was initially attracted to the idea of photographing the elderly when I noticed the complexity of their physical features and then listened to the depths of their stories. The people in this age group have so much wisdom and beauty to offer the world, but their voices often go unheard. Ultimately, through this project, I want people to understand age as a badge of honor rather than a condition to fear. 

My first art exhibition featured images and captions from the “Beauty of Age,” and now there are plans for a bigger exhibit. In the future, I hope to make international excursions to explore how other societies treat the elderly. There are still cultures that honor their elders, but in too many countries, I feel society mostly sees them as a burden. What the elderly people really are is nothing but a treasure. If we take the time to listen, they gift us life-wisdom and first-hand knowledge about our history. They can remind us of historical traumas and responsibilities. Or provide us with a moment of gratefulness and perspective in our otherwise hectic lives.

One senior (born in 1934) I spoke with told me of her life as a refugee, fleeing from Palestine to Syria as a child, and then once more from Syria to Germany. “When I was 12, we had to flee from Palestine and start a new life from nothing in Syria. It broke my heart. Six years ago, we had to flee again from what just felt like home.” 

Reflecting on experiences like this one serves as perspective for our current lives. I hope my project can make at least a small difference in bringing back the reverence we’ve traditionally held for our senior citizens. 

Although my time with the Adobe Creative Residency is ending, the tools I’ve received, including lifelong collaborators, and the confidence I’ve gained as an artist to pursue long creative projects, will continue to serve me into the next project and throughout my career. I’m glad that in my second attempt at becoming an Adobe resident, I was given a chance to share my work. I’m glad I persevered and now have this incredible community of artists from which to draw inspiration.

@laurazalenga – Instagram

My next project will focus on a similarly tabooed topic – adoption. Again, something wonderful but somehow not talked about very much. I want to continue using my work as a vehicle for societal exploration and raising awareness. 

Taking on such a big project would have been nearly impossible without the Adobe Creative Residency. I look forward to guiding and supporting the next crop of talented and powerful artists, just as former Creative Residents served as mentors and inspiration to me. 

Together, we try to use our art to positively impact the society and world around us.

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