You may not recognize his name, but you've probably seen his work
BY JYLLIAN ROACH
They can cook a 20lbs. turkey, assemble something from Ikea or watch the entirety of the 1975 film “The Confessions of Winifred Wagner.”
For photographer Wes Naman, five hours was all it took to become an internet sensation.
“I was sitting in the airport, having a Jameson at 8 in the morning before I had to go fly home for Christmas,” he said. “By the time I landed, I had probably 100 texts, emails, hits on Facebook from all over the place just wanting the rights to use these images.”
That was in 2012, when Wired Magazine sent journalist Jakob Schiller to write an article about Naman’s invisible tape photo series.
The Invisible Tape Series soon became one of the first viral photo series, and its popularity was worldwide. His work was shown in places like Russia, India, Iran and Portugal.
“Germany loves me more than (David) Hasselhoff,” Naman said. “They even have Invisible Tape Night at certain bars, where people tape their faces up.”
Naman’s fame blossomed: Students reached out with questions, art schools asked him to speak, a TV station in Japan even flew him out as a guest on a gameshow.
Suddenly, Naman said, his photography stopped being about having fun. It had morphed into a constant struggle to top the acclaim the Invisible Tape Series had garnered.
“There was this thing, like, ‘Ok, well, what can I do to top this?’” he said. “I also felt as a photographer that you’re only as good as your last shot.”
Naman spent some time trying to build on his Invisible Tape Series by creating the Rubber Band Series, a fun play on words that had Albuquerque musicians wrapping their heads with rubber bands. This one did not receive the same level of recognition, and Naman found himself questioning his work.
“There was about a year or two where I really lost touch with who I was,” he said. “And finally, I just gave up on worrying about what people thought or whether or not it had to be better than the last thing I did.”
Naman went back to making imagery that meant something to him. He recently finished a series titled Lonely Man, and has moved onto a Lonely Woman series, both of which explore those empty moments everyone feels.
“Finally, I was able to dispel of my ego and trying to exceed my ego’s expectations and just break it down and go back to what I really like to do,” he said.
That doesn’t mean he shies away from the benefits and responsibilities that came from the Invisible Tape Series, however. He’s flying out to his native North Carolina at the end of the month to do a speaking tour at North Carolina Museum of Art, Carteret Community College and Randolph Community College.
Find more of Naman’s work here.
Jyllian Roach is the arts and entertainment editor for ABQ Free Press Weekly. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org