Image as Journey

There was a post on Coudal Partners Fresh Signals yesterday that got me thinking about images and journeys.

Folks were pointed to a project by Bob Kessler about Western Avenue in Chicago. Western Avenue is the longest street in Chicago, some say the world but those Canadians would beg to differ, and is steeped in more than a century of history. It is the history of the street that attracted Kessler to both the street and the project. It is an amazing project and the images he has posted online lead me to believe that when all 80 images are exhibited in the same place it would be quite amazing.

Like I said, his website got me thinking about images and how people use them to represent a specific journey. Or how contemporary images are used to show how much things have changed but still stay the same. I was immediately reminded of two projects by other artists and one of my own from the summer of 2001.

The first project that came to mind was the book Cucamonga by Rudy Vanderlans. The second book of a trilogy, Cucamonga traces the paths and habitations of Captain Beefhart and the Magic Band. The goal was to show through images and sound (there is a CD included with the book) what has changed and how much might still be the same from the places that lead to the creation of such amazing music. The viewer is both happy to see houses still standing and saddend to see old haunts replaced by generic low-rise office complexes.

The second project was the US Highway 89 project by a photographer named Brian. His goal is to photograph the entire length of the original US highway 89 from the US/Candian crossing in Montana to the US/Mexican crossing in Arizona one mile marker at a time. An ambitious project to say the least. I am sure that this project is propeled by some story that connects his story of the story of his family to the story of the road, the same way that Kessler is connected to Western Avenue and I am connected to the subject of my project.

Time = Decay was a final project for ART 332 the summer of 2001. I needed a subject to build a website around and I had always been intrigued by the empty buildings around my parents home town, West Frankfort Illinois. I photographed the old school (now a museum) and the empty warehouses, gas stations, homes and corner grocery stores that dot the town. I remember stories of how large and lively West Frankfort used to be and tried to reconcile those stories with what I saw happening to the buildings and the town. I wanted to take a journey to a place that I had never been, so I took photos of the way things were and imagined.

I guess that is the power of this type of photography. It allows you to put yourself in a place you could never be and imagine the stories and the things that must have been.


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