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I, Orfeo

Sobering documentary images allow the focus of this series to shift from Orpheus looking at Eurydice to be imagined as I, Orfeo, separate from her husband.

Photographs and text by

Diana Nicholette Jeon

Several years ago, my husband and I had a miserable fight, fraught with drama and fury. He slammed the door and walked out, declaring loudly that he wanted a divorce. Later that evening, I learned that he was involved with another woman. All at once I was upset; stunned; devastated.

The next morning, I stood at the front of my classroom. When I opened my mouth to lecture, I instead burst into tears. The only thing I could see and hear were Rilke’s words about Orpheus and Eurydice:

‘The god put out his hand to stop her, saying,

with sorrow in his voice: He has turned around—,

she could not understand, and softly answered


For in the aftermath of the turn of events that sad evening before, I was left as broken-hearted as Orpheus turning to look at Eurydice.

I, Orfeo represents my attempt to process that which I did not expect and I could not–even now, several years later–conceive; a visual allusion to what I felt and experienced. Creating it was heart- wrenching, challenging, and yet strangely affirming; filled with despair as well as catharsis.

In telling only one side of a two-person tale, “I, Orfeo” simultaneously reveals and occludes. By revealing the inherent duality contained within a one-sided telling, it conveys the dichotomy found in perception, memories, and photography itself.



I, Orfeo is a work that I began the first week of October, 2015. The photographs here represent the entire story, but only some of the images. Ultimately, I intend to create a small edition handmade artist photobook using the complete series. Over time, I refined the ideas from a series of individual portraits to a series of diptychs consisting mainly of a human presence paired with a landscape.

The portraits of the woman for this series were shot with a plastic Holga lens jerry-rigged to a Moment Telephoto lens then attached to the iPhone 6s Plus using Command Strips. The imagery was manipulated on the iPhone only. I shot the landscape images in Hawaii and Martha’s Vineyard over a period of several years, mostly using low tech (older model) iPhones for the “plastic” look and feel. Phone models ranged from the three 3G through the 5s.The flaws in the imagery and the coloring are intentional, there to lend turmoil and emotion to the visual representation.

-Diana Nicolette Jeon

Visit Diana Nicolette Jeon’s Profile

Diana Nicholette Jeon is an award-winning artist who lives and works in Honolulu; she was awarded her MFA in Imaging and Digital Art from the University of Maryland at Baltimore County in 2006. Jeon’s work has been included in four solo exhibitions and 130 group exhibitions; venues include the Hawaii State Art Museum; the Honolulu Museum of Art; the Museo di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto; the San Diego Art Institute; San Diego City College; MK2 Biblioteque (Paris); Tethys Gallery (Florence); Galerie MCC (Paris); PH21 Gallery (Budapest.) She has received multiple awards for her work, these include three Recognition Purchase Awards from the Hawaii State Foundation of Art and Culture; 1st Place at the 38th Annual HJCC Commitment to Excellence, 2nd Place at Hawaii Photography 2016 and 1st Place at the 5th Annual Mobile Photo Awards. Jeon’s art has been featured in a wide array of publications, including the Huffington Post, Lens Culture, In the In-Between, Binfeng Space Art/Culture magazine, PhotoPhore, Corriere della Sera, L’arena and the Honolulu Star Advertiser. Her works are in numerous public and private collections, including the Hawaii State Art Museum.

One Comment

  • diana nicholette jeon

    Thank you so much for the honor of being the first person published in the new series project on TAW, Joanne. I am humbled by that and thankful for the opportunity to show this work publicly as a series. Thank you for all the effort and time you put forward showing all of our work, Joanne.

    I would like to add something that might not come across to readers who did not see the project last year as it evolved.

    Nothing worth doing comes easily. That is an understatement for series work in general and, in particular, *this* series. Obviously, the work is deeply personal. Though most of my work is, this took that to a level which made it very challenging to work on. There are times I am/was stuck and can’t see through it, but in a manner that is different from when that happens(ed) on other works or series. Some days I just cannot bear to re-visit that place – and to do the work, I HAVE to. The right frame of mind is a must when working on it.

    This project is not one I worked out in a short period of time; it was begun in early Oct. 2015. It started as a series of self-portraits taken with the a brand new iPhone. After “completing” the project in the fall, I submitted the series as it then looked to a well-known organization’s photo competition. It included a review of the work. After reading the reviewer feedback (which was overall positive but stated s/he felt bored with the series as it was, that it needed more variety) I started to rework it. It been critiqued by peers and a mentor in two portfolio review classes since then. This is the third evolution/revision of the project so far.

    As I said, I have been working on from Oct 2015 – but I am not done; it has more diptychs that I am still working with completing. Although a couple of the images have been exhibited in this or earlier versions of the work, the entire series has not been exhibited

    Each diptych is formatted as two prints flush mounted to two cradled-wood panels, then hand coated with cold wax. I ultimately envision the series as having a handmade, hand-bound artist’s book with prints on the pages, as well.