I am interested in observing changes in the constantly-evolving cities and documenting those aspects which might change its purpose, form, meaning or become no more than a memory.
I am curious how we interact, use and shape our surroundings and how the surroundings are shaped for us. When photographing the city I am looking for manifestations of socio-economic forces, which shaped the built environment I am currently documenting.
I moved to Ottawa from Aberdeen, Scotland in 2016 and as previously I am using photography to discover, understand and document my new home. Since my arrival from Scotland I try to decode the new reality I am surrounded by and learn its semiotics.
The range of topics that I regard as noteworthy is broad and eclectic and winter is one of them. I am continuing to document this season not for its so-called picturesque quality but for its transformative force and ability to repurpose the landscape.
Harsh and snowy winter is inseparable from life in Canada but global warming might change that so I want to have a record of the current state. I am not looking for the sublime as the 19-century Romantic artist would — however it is interesting to see how bleak can be perceived as such if we forget about the wider context and frankly, thanks to the technological advances, most of us can afford to do so.
Apart from photographing in frigid conditions, I am also working on documentation of Ottawa’s waterways and other aspects of its urban environment with the hope of creating a more comprehensive body of work about this city.
Painters and photographers of the uninhabited wilderness have used selection and composition as an antidote for perceived disorder and, thus, suggest a place to venture and explore no matter how dangerous. There are wildernesses within civilization created by abandonment and other unintentional acts. These out-of-the-way places have a certain desolation and emptiness. They suggest loss, separation, alienation, failure, and futility.
Abandonment is a statement of failure of an object, a construction, a creation, to satisfy the needs of the creator or the owner. Each instance of abandonment begs a historical narrative, in a sense, a minor crime drama with motive, method, and opportunity to be discovered or at least pondered.
I am a visual explorer that is excited by particular, chance arrangements of items left and found together. I seek out these places where structure and disorder — the designed and the not designed — interact.
We humans are social animals, but also tribal. We harbor a capacity to turn on our neighbors with malevolence, often without warning, sometimes with murderous results. This instinct seems not to diminish with the development of complex modern societies; it continues to manifest itself in the form of hate, intolerance, and bloodshed. This capacity seems to reside not far below the surface.
This atavistic flaw in our character takes many forms that I will explore here, including genocide, massacres, lynching, race riots, mass incarceration, and civil war.
I have been thinking about these issues for many years. Recently, I’ve struggled to find a visual vocabulary to explain and describe both the events and the phenomenon. Unavoidably, part of my exploration focuses on these very limitations: limitations of art in general, and photography in particular. How does one convey what happened in these places? This challenge is interesting in itself. Rarely does much physical evidence remain, though monuments and memorials sometimes serve as perverse scars. Mostly this lack of evidence touches on what Elisa Adami calls “Presence of Absence.” We know terrible things happened in these locations from the historical record — there does seem to be a kind of “after presence” — but is difficult to know for sure, and even more difficult to evince. The absence of physical evidence makes these utterly-ordinary locations all the more poignant.
Contemporary Views Along the First Transcontinental Railroad
While construction of the Pacific Railroad ostensibly began during the Civil War, it was not until that great conflict was over that it really got rolling. In a race for government subsidies and land grants, the Central Pacific built eastward from Sacramento, California, while the Union Pacific built westward from Omaha, Nebraska. The two railroads met at Promontory Summit, just north of Great Salt Lake, Utah Territory, on May 10th 1869. It was a watershed moment.
I follow in the footsteps of photographers Alfred A. Hart and A. J. Russell who expertly recorded the construction of the road. But this is not a re-photography project—it is, rather, photography as archaeology. In making a comprehensive series of photographs along the original route, my goal is to give the viewer as strong of a connection as possible to this 19th century engineering marvel through the remaining visual evidence of the human-altered landscape. And while not visible, I also hope to evoke the various peoples involved with the railroad, as well as those affected by it.
When it comes to radical urban change one must not look as far as Singapore or Beijing. Right in the center of Europe the German capital is — broadly unnoticed — undergoing the final wave of restructuring which will turn the city from a space for inhabitants to the playground of investors, where the quality of life for all becomes a luxury good for those who can afford it.
Open spaces are consequently erased. Existing tenements are demolished to make way for luxury condos and still more shopping malls. This is made possible because the approach of the government is not oriented toward basic needs and long-term developments, but only toward short-range effects where a unified concept of urban lifestyle is consequently misconstructed as urbanity.
This is a selection of photographs from my ongoing series, Life in the Midwest.
It’s interesting to note that although it’s called Life in the Midwest, there is an obvious absence of humankind in these images. That’s because the “life” I am referring to is not humanity, but rather my observations made as I absorb my surroundings.
The locations recorded are important to me as a personal history of where I live, the roads I travel, and the memories I draw from my experiences. Familiarity is a common theme in my life, however unfamiliarity is the catalyst that leads to unexpected images.
The camera is my tool by which I reinterpret these newly found landscapes. It helps me see things more as I imagined them rather than as they actually appear. I recall the ambient sights, sounds, and temperature of each setting and work hard to translate my senses into visual memories.
Life in the Midwest is an ongoing exploration that helps define who I am.
For this project, Ohio in Rapture, I instinctually roamed from scene to scene across Ohio. I slowly became aware of the force that was pushing me forward. As my collection of photos grew, I found that what was stirring in me were memories of my father. He was a workaholic that ran the family blue-collar business until he passed unexpectedly in 2001, just before I turned 25. Perhaps more significantly, he passed before life could show me his imperfections and take him off the pedestal so many parents start on.
Perhaps because most of these memories are from a child’s perspective, the most lucid are those raised by the familiar topography of Ohio. I often found sacred memories unlocked by the light and form of the landscape.
The smell of my dad’s car in the early-morning drive to his shop was an unmistakable combination of machine grease and sweat. The interior was a disheveled mix of 80-plus-hour work weeks and a losing battle to keep the cloth interior clean. The rising sun revealed a mixed landscape passing by as we sped along nearly empty roads.
Rural decay; family businesses made of hope; working and upper class neighborhoods ebb and flowed between strip malls and forgotten things. Shuttered factories leveled and paved over to serve as parking for new factories. Family farms cut into a silty clay soil that never forgets a bootprint. The smell of industry always nearby, belching and seeping into a gradient of nature’s last thresholds where unseen songbirds celebrate their morning peals.
The rust has changed and shifted over the years, but the light holds true.
Ohio is a land where every collar has an unabashed tinge of blue, without grand gesture or proclamation. As I hold these scenes, so too I hold my father.
Visions of Collapsing Memories is an exploration of a mountain and its time. I felt it necessary to document not the causes of the depopulation of the mountain but its less obvious consequences in the short term.
Starting from the houses that collapse as metaphors of memories that slowly fade over time, I began to photograph the ruins scattered in the mountain landscape, small ramparts that still resist, as if the effort spent in building them was a glue against the relentless time.
At the same time as I was wandering in the mountains, in an old uninhabited house like the ones I was photographing, negatives on glass sheets dating back to the early 1900s were found, almost as if destiny wanted to bring together the modern and the ancient: and so within my research, a brief dialogue was born with an unknown ancient photographer, in which some photographs were reflected exactly: close in space, far in time.
I have always loved to walk and look for time in things; to allow my state of mind to dialogue with light and space, to give voice to those things that no longer have a voice because no one listens to them.
The America that I intimately photograph seems different, unfamiliar, fractured. People seem anxious, divided, disinterested and, at times, unhinged. Something has changed. I’m curious. What’s going on? Consider this a non-scientific inquiry into a people.
Allentown, Pennsylvania is the 231st-largest city in the United States, the third-largest city in Pennsylvania and has received the All-America City Award from the National Civic League on three occasions. And Allentown’s former mayor has been found guilty of 47 Federal corruption charges for his role in a pay-to-play scheme.
Flawed was born on the side of the road — a middle-aged road. It surveys the landscape, both physical and psychological, natural and man-made, large and small.
The road trips pictured here are an escape, a journey, a metaphor for life, a time for introspection. Speeding by some features, stopping to take a closer look at others. It considers and evaluates what it deems worthwhile and what was a mistake. (I obsess over my own shortcomings). Ultimately it concludes that the imperfections and flaws are where growth, strength, and beauty lay.
The flaws in these prints — characteristics of old film, old cameras, and the darkroom process (dusty negatives, light leaks, chemical stains, etc.) are spotted in gold. This act is inspired by the art of kintsugi in which broken ceramics are repaired with gold. Kintsugi philosophy recognizes brokenness as an opportunity for restoration, strength and beauty.