We spoke with Meagan Ranes about being inspired by visual wrongness, living in a continual daydream, the worst service job she ever worked, trusting her intuition and the power of the collective unconscious.
I’ve never been a huge fan of reality because the real world can be extremely frightening and cruel. I much prefer delving into an alternate place of magical and fantastical substance.
I’ve been a fan of your film photography for years now, and it would seem that you value atmosphere above all. Checking out your body of work, you’ll find more low-fidelity landscapes and discombobulating bursts of color than something Ansel Adams would take. Do you value strange atmospheres in the art you consume?
Thank you so much! You’re absolutely correct. My whole life I’ve always found myself falling into escapism and fantasy, whether it be in a book, playing a video game, watching anime, listening to music or just simply daydreaming. I’ve never been a huge fan of reality because the real world can be extremely frightening and cruel. Within my own art, and in the art I consume, I much prefer delving into an alternate place of magical and fantastical substance.
A huge inspiration of mine is the film Meshes of the Afternoon (1949). Highly surreal and ethereal, it follows a woman through a dream. I feel like the film relies heavily on mood, and this sense of a warped reality, which is what I try to convey in my own work. The images you see may or may not make sense, but it’s more about how it makes you feel than what you are literally looking at. In art school, most of my professors put a large emphasis on constructing a tangible concept, but this film inspired me to stray away from those rigid constructs and to let my own mood, feelings and emotions take hold of my work instead.
Can you tell me about the worst job you ever worked? Who was it for, what happened and why did you leave?
My first real job was by far the worst. I got a job at the movie theater in Modesto, CA, which was a half-hour commute from my home at the time. It was during the summer before my sophomore year in high school. I always thought that working at the theater would be fun, because I love movies (wrong). The only shifts available were eight hours, which was a huge deal to me considering I never worked before. The uniform they had us wear was uncomfortable physically (big baggy pants, itchy polo shirt, and a vest) and made me feel extremely insecure.
The shifts would alternate between working the concession stand, ushering (cleaning the theaters) and bathroom cleaning. The food in the stand was completely disgusting and barely scraped by the health codes. The supervisors were condescending and dismissive. I remember calling my boyfriend at the time on my lunch break after having to clean the bathrooms for five hours straight and just sobbing. The pay was minimum wage (under $10 an hour at the time) and they wouldn’t send the weekly schedule out until the very last minute, which made making plans ahead of time nearly impossible. The second I got offered a job elsewhere, I wrote up my two-week notice and drove up on my day off and hand delivered it (I still needed the job reference!)
Would you rather cultivate order or disorder in your work and daily life? Do you thrive more in a space that reeks of confusion and disorganization or do you prefer cleanliness and linearity?
Disorder! Art is the only outlet I have where I can work freely without restrictions. I am super tidy and neurotic about having an organized, clean space in my day-to-day life, that when I go to make some photos happen, it’s the only time I feel like I can be free of rules and self-judgment. I still hold high levels of organization when it comes to archiving and processing my negatives, but when I actually pick up the camera I’m able to turn off the nagging, ultra-perfectionist voice inside my head, and just go with the flow and feel. I never plan anything that I shoot. I just carry my camera with me and if I see something compelling I’ll capture it. Planned, coordinated photo shoots are the hardest for me because I over-analyze every single piece of the puzzle. I am technically capable of doing shoots like this, but they don’t captivate me the same as when I’m just shooting freely.
In my hometown I always found it hard to find friends who had similar interests and outlooks as me, so I found myself self-isolating a lot of the time.
If you spoke with someone who had never been to the Bay Area in California before, how would you describe it? Would you recommend it to a stranger or not? What would you change about the city of Oakland if you could?
I’d tell them that we have it all! The great food, weather, trees, culture, art, social connections, and entertainment scene is what drew me here. You can drive an hour in any direction and find new landscapes and experiences to feast your eyes on. I love how accessible everything is here, and I love the underground art and music scenes. I’ve never been anywhere in my life where so many beautifully unique misfits and weirdos can find other similar folks to collect with. In my hometown I always found it hard to find friends who had similar interests and outlooks as me, so I found myself self-isolating a lot of the time and falling into my aforementioned escapist tendencies.
Here in Oakland, it’s hard to find enough time in the day to hang out with the diverse collective of people who I’ve befriended throughout the years. Living here for nearly ten years has given me an entirely new perspective on the world in general, coming from a very small town originally. This city is ever changing, transforming on the daily. Right now there are huge class issues being presented by the recent tech boom, bringing in rapid gentrification of decades-old establishments. It’s disheartening seeing the culture being stripped from these older neighborhoods and the lifelong residents being pushed out of their homes. I don’t have a solution for this problem, but I do hope the techies find somewhere else, far, far away from here to establish their industry. Maybe they could just create their own tech commune out in the middle of nowhere [sarcasm].
But alas, things always come and go – the ebb and flow is a vital part of our existence here on this planet. I’m assured that this inflation won’t last forever, and I know that Oakland will be able to bounce back. I could say a lot more, but I’d prefer not to get too political here.
The walls that guard my heart and my true persona are high and impermeable. The older I get, the more I listen to my intuition because it has never once failed me.
How would you describe your personality and demeanor to somebody who’s never met you before? Do you feel pretty similar to yourself as a child or do new parts of your psychology unfold every year?
I’d say I’m varied and unpredictable. It truly depends on who I’m talking to. Being highly empathic, and also having an anxiety disorder, it really varies. Some people I connect with immediately – with those people I will feel warm and comfortable talking to. I won’t hold back with my sense of humor, and I can be my brutally honest self. I can be very loving, loyal, and open with those I trust. Other people will give me feelings of anxiety or unease immediately – I won’t say a single word over what’s necessary for that particular social interaction. I can be extremely private and withdrawn in that case.
Having so much experience with customer service over the years, I can technically hold a decent, eloquent conversation with anyone I come in contact with, but I will hold back saying what is actually on my mind. After years of heartbreak, disappointment, betrayal and emotional abuse, the walls that guard my heart and my true persona are high and impermeable. The older I get, the more I listen to my intuition because it has never once failed me. If I get a gut feeling about a person, it’s never wrong. In my youth I would ignore feelings like this and give people the benefit of the doubt, being open and transparent with everyone I interacted with. With gained wisdom, I know this is just not possible if I want to avoid conflict and stress.
My personality has not changed a bit since childhood. I’m still fiercely passionate and imaginative as I’ve ever been, but my mannerisms have taken a complete 180° turn as the years pass. I’ve found the truth in the age-old saying of “change is the only constant in life.” In order to grow into our best selves, we must be malleable and look at life as a series of lessons. With that being said, life is unpredictable and crazy and I’m just here for the ride.
Can you please grab the nearest book to you and read the first passage you see from it? What does it remind you of?
This passage makes me think of time and its cyclicality. Although the day is ending, the night is just beginning. Makes me think of the saying “when one door closes another one opens”. Do not be sad that something is coming to an end because there’s a new beginning, or something to that nature. Also my favorite time of day is twilight so there are some feelings of nostalgia and romance there.
What was the first moment of heartbreak you ever experienced? You can be as detailed or vague as you like.
I believe I was in fifth grade when my grandmother died of surgery complications. I had never experienced the death of a person so close to me before this point, especially so unexpectedly. She taught me patience, kindness, and how to bake a perfect apple pie. She used to babysit me when I was a child, so we were extremely close and spent a lot of time together. I still remember the exact moment my mom came home crying. I was afraid to ask her what had happened. Tears were a rare occurrence in my family, so I knew it was serious. When she told me, I was in complete disbelief. I felt numb. The reality slowly started to sink in, in the days proceeding. I’ve worn her turquoise ring every day since her death. That was about 15 years ago.
Finally, do you believe in anything outside of conventional science or modern reasoning in regard to the world around us? Do you believe that there is anything behind the scenes with what’s going on with us and the planet?
Yes and no. I don’t believe that a god or some ethereal being is pulling the strings, but I do believe in a very basic form of a collective consciousness. Everything on this planet is all made of the same essential building blocks of life, stardust or what have you. The elements are found within us humans, every animal, plant, and the geographic and biological features found on our Earth, and every planet in the galaxy and universe for that matter. I do feel like everything on the planet is connected in some way in a marriage of both science and some sort of instinctual nature.
With that being said, I do think it’s up to us humans (who have been steadily destroying our planet) to wake up and fix the problems we have created. Unfortunately due to bureaucratic and political interest, there is a huge divide between those who seek to profit from and those who seek to remedy the problems created by the past centuries of industry (fossil fuels, GMO takeover, factory farming, excavations of other natural resources, deforestation, etc.) I think that humans are the ones who are behind the scenes basically fucking everything up for everything and everyone else, but we can also be the solution.
Curated by: Morgan Enos
Conducted by: Email
Published: October 18, 2017
Total questions: 8
Word count: 1978
Reading time: Nine minutes
Most-used word: Time
Marriage: Reds and blues
Watch this: Meshes of the Afternoon
Ansel Adams, anxiety, art school, blue, California, deforestation, disorder, dreams, factory farming, fantasy, galaxy, GMO, heart, House of Leaves, impermeable, intuition, magic, Mark Z. Danielewski, Meagan Ranes, Meshes of the Afternoon, Modesto, nostalgia, Oakland, older, persona, personality, psychology, red, romance, theatre, universe, walls
About the curator
Morgan Enos is a songwriter and journalist originally from California. His curatorial work for North of the Internet aims to strike a deeper place in his conversation subjects — the dreamy subtext to the linear everyday. Morgan also frequently writes power pop records as Other Houses about joy, outer space, frustration, chess and spiritual light. He resides in New York, where he continues to creatively fire on all cylinders.
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