Sewanee Artist of the Week: Aidan Bliss (C’18)


Photo courtesy of Aidan’s Facebook

By Anna Mann

Executive Staff

Like many middle schoolers, Aidan Bliss (C’18) filmed escapades of him and his friends to put on YouTube. Although the sci-fi aspects of their series encountered many technical difficulties, mostly due to an unsurprising lack of special effect techniques, Bliss began to get comfortable shooting and editing film. These scripted episodes eventually led to his double major in art and English.


Near the end of high school, Bliss focused more on photography, but he still loves to create short films. More apt to shoot everyday objects rather than nature, Bliss said that his photographs usually try to display the “out there-ness in everyday things,” showing at large his view of America and the 21st Century.


This idea of looming industry has always influenced his work, especially in the beginning. He claims that starting out as a photographer, he sought out “the most desolate, under construction places” he could, taking as many photographs as possible until security inevitably noticed him.  


Similarly, Bliss enjoys playing with preconceptions in his work. Whether that entails the subject of his photos or his varying technique simply depends. Often, he uses flash to create a surreal effect, explaining that the extra light illuminates unpleasant details. Yet, the realistic nature of it allows his audience generate new ideas about ordinary things.


Moreover, considering that both his parents have artistic backgrounds, both supported him completely when he decided to continue his work in college. Still, Bliss states that though the feedback helps him tremendously, having artistic parents can also feel stifling.


“It’s weird having an artist dad. Sometimes both sides are afraid their work is going to be just like the other. If I talk to my dad and ask him his opinions on work, he’ll give it to me straight, an artist’s opinion. Which is good because it’s what I need, but sometimes I expect parental approval,” Bliss explained.


At Sewanee, Bliss discovered his love for the physical side of photography. He mostly shoots with an Olympus XA, a very compact film camera with a proper flash attachment. He enjoys its small size mainly for its ability to capture serendipitous moments.


“One of the things that I love is to take a picture and let happy accidents happen to it so it can become something completely different. It mixes what’s going on in the moment with what’s going on in the camera,” he said.


With all of his work, Bliss says he tries to form “loose narratives” to peak his viewer’s interest. Furthermore, he believes his passion for photography delves from his even deeper love of storytelling. He uses dialogue to bring more depth to his characters, explaining that it’s “probably my favorite thing to write. Photography conveys what escapes in writing. If you take the in between of writing and photography, I think you get film, so that’s the whole triangle for me.”


His creative writing career at Sewanee began in a fiction writing class, where Bliss discovered a penchant for people-watching, especially at Sewanee fraternity parties. He describes them as “microcosms of human interaction” and states that often the whole story will consist of only two hours of a party.


Bliss explains that his capstone project for the Creative Writing Certificate will certainly incorporate many party scenes, as well as plenty of dialogue. Additionally, his protagonist will most likely lack a happy ending. Not out of any malicious intent, though, as Bliss admits that he’d rather the main character get the conclusion he deserves.


Nevertheless, he states, “I like melancholy endings because reading them hits me the hardest. Sometimes I’ll read or watch something that imbues me with such deep melancholia that it makes my chest tighten up and my heart beat faster. It’s such an incredible feeling because it almost hurts a little bit.”


Once he turns his capstone in at the end of the semester, Bliss will focus primarily on film and photography. As for advice for young artists? “Don’t beat yourself up,” he says. “It’s easy to get discouraged with so much good work out there. But keep practicing. I’ve never seen someone work hard on something for a long time and not get better. Don’t let everything out there block your work. I’ve been there and it’s not worth it.”


After graduation in the spring, Bliss isn’t sure of his next step. However, he’s certain he’ll continue his artistic work, whether in the form of words or pictures. Perhaps one might find him with Olympia XA in hand, taking as many pictures as possible in a work zone before security evacuates him from the premises.