‘The residue on these screens that I am shooting is not just grime. It is evidence of the otherwise invisible.’

Artist Tabitha Soren is creating images she hopes remind viewers that humanity is beautiful. Her body of work, Surface Tension, examines how people interact with images presented on touch screens. At first glance, her photographs could be abstract paintings with thick brushstrokes and impasto application. But on closer inspection, the brushstrokes become fingerprints, and the paint streaks are oil left over from our daily taps, swipes and scrolls.

“The residue on these screens that I am shooting is not just grime. It is evidence of the otherwise invisible. And, yes, what you see in these images is the equivalent of what we wipe off our phone screens onto our jeans 20 times a day. But to me, it’s also proof of how we spend our time. The gestures are a map of our just finished actions,” Soren said in an interview with In Sight.

She explained her process for creating the images.

“These are pictures I take with an 8-by-10 view camera of the marks that regularly accumulate on my iPad screen. Before I take the picture, I go into my Web history for the time that it’s been used and pull up one of the images that I looked at during that period of time. It could be a week, could be a couple of days. The background image could be a news video, a friend’s Facebook page or a jpg emailed to me. I then shoot the fingerprints, smudges and swipes on top of a background Web image on the iPad screen. These are not composites. All of it goes onto the 8-by-10 negative at once. The result is that the viewer is forced to see an everyday object in a way they usually don’t.’

Soren’s career started in television when she was 18 and an intern at CNN. She spent 11 years in breaking news and chose to change her career when she was ready to have a family. And though she has moved from journalism to art, she admits that her past can meld with her current work.

“Current events do creep in, though. I haven’t stopped being political. Surface Tension includes images of bleached coral reefs, sexual harassment, forests on fire, shrinking glaciers and criminal justice reform, just to name a few issues that I’ve always been concerned with that have ended up in my art.”

Soren’s work is on display Feb. 7 through June 9, at the Davis Museum at Wellesley College, Wellesley, Mass.

In Sight is The Washington Post’s photography blog for visual narrative. This platform showcases compelling and diverse imagery from staff and freelance photographers, news agencies and archives. If you are interested in submitting a story to In Sight, please complete this form.

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