Starting next Monday (the 15th of April), visitors to the Carlisle Photo Festival will be able to see a number of my images included in their Making Waves exhibition. For those of you unable to make the trip, here are the images which were approved by the selection committee, along with my essay which will appear in the exhibition catalogue.
Some 70 years after the Technicolor musical The Wizard of Oz was released, the film earned UNESCO status as a ‘memory of the world.’ Many of my fellow Kansans must have sighed in frustration at the news as it seems we are to be linked forever in the public imagination with a medicated Judy Garland in pigtails with a picnic basket. The film depicts Kansas as an unhappy place frequented by tornadoes: imagery perpetuated by Oz The Great & Powerful. This notion that Kansas is brown and boring is entrenched in the world’s collective psyche, which is a bit like thinking that Atlanta still smoulders after being razed to the ground in Gone With the Wind.
My parents first showed me how to load film into their Brownie Starflash when I was five or six. I grew up on a farm and cameras only came out for vacations and celebrations to capture one or two moments. My photographic approach remains one of studied observation: taking the time to find a unique angle, waiting for the best light or lingering until a special moment can be captured. Most of my subjects are buildings, landscapes and streets: places that look much the same from day to day except when carefully framed, exceptionally lit or enlivened by an interesting subject. Today I continue to use film cameras as well as digital ones, sometimes together (I often use vintage lenses, pinhole attachments or even a kaleidoscope with my DSLR).
Fifteen years ago I moved from Kansas to England, but I remain fond of my home state and return when I can to visit friends, connect with family and reconnect with myself by driving down long dirt roads at random. Kansas is vast: the state covers an area equal to England and Scotland combined, yet has fewer than 3 million residents, which leaves many empty acres for exploring in near solitude. For all the spaces to survey, these particular images were taken only a few miles from where I was raised, at a state park and reservoir that I had visited many times as a child but which was closed for the winter. I am a bit wary to share them as they reinforce in part the stereotypes most Kansans are keen to avoid, but perhaps some stark beauty and notable shapes can be found amid the otherwise near-featureless landscape. Let’s not forget that little Dorothy spends all her time in the fantastical world of Oz only wanting to go home, to Kansas.