The place where children grow up and become adults ultimately shapes their
interests, choices, aspirations, dreams, and potential opportunities. Drawing
inspiration from S.E. Hinton’s literary characterizations of teenagers and young
adults in Tulsa, the documentary photographs in Rumbleville capture a
contemporary depiction of childhood maturation in the same disadvantaged
locations used in books such as The Outsiders and Rumble Fish.
My photographic exploration fluctuates between past and present day
socioeconomic challenges evident in the city’s nostalgic identity. The architecture
and landscape surrounding the people in my images act as a backdrop that
suggests Tulsa’s connection to 1950’s and 1960’s Americana, while also
addressing the lingering effects of rooted class divisions still apparent in the city’s
urban neighborhoods. The photographs in Rumbleville bring you closer to a new
generation of residents in a community that is often misrepresented, typecast,
and restricted by antiquated stereotypes.
This is a new project.
These photographs investigate teenagers and young adults raised amidst a backdrop of mass exodus after years of economic decomposition in Michigan. My hometown of Saginaw is repeatedly reported as having the most violent crimes per capita in the country according to the FBI. Flint and Detroit are also frequently listed in the notorious top ten.
Primarily I focus on the disenfranchised, the misunderstood, the urban pioneers, the aspiring thugs, and the hipsters whose youthfulness contrasts the harsh condition of the places in which they are photographed. I am interested in how these specific locations shape the aspirations, both positive and misguided, and attitude of its residents. Of particular interest to me is how this under-populated yet developed urban landscape promotes a type of freedom due to lack of order. This commonality amongst the young inhabitants photographed poses questions about the fragile uncertainty of the ability of the region to renew itself.
I was born and raised in Michigan and personally witnessed how the economic nosedive affected friends, family, and communities. This is an important and pivotal time in the history of the state due to the recent national focus on this area brought about by skyrocketing unemployment, controversial automotive bailouts, and continuing crime. My background as a former resident allows me to view Michigan with a level of intimacy and familiarity that more fully addresses the physical as well as the mental ramifications of living in such a challenging place.
The New Country
“No place like Boonville though, Buddy.” (Allen Ginsberg, Kansas City to Saint Louis)
At first view, the vast open space and pastoral landscapes of the Midwest and its inhabitants seem to exist in a nostalgic vacuum. Upon closer inspection, these people and their activities express a desire to connect with the past although the reality of the present is inescapable.
The romance of idealized county life lingers in the landscape and people of this region, but it becomes confounded as time elapses. For example, the stylized depictions of vernacular Midwestern locations and life by painters such as Thomas Hart Benton and George Caleb Bingham are still evident in today’s landscape, but contemporary fashions, cars, activities, and technology crack the illusion of the past. History and the present simultaneously mingle to create an environment where neither exists independent of each other.
Through my photographs, the stereotype of traditional country life fades into a rusted backdrop, while the contemporary aesthetics of American culture define a new rural landscape.
The recognition of adulthood is connected to the acceptance that childhood has slipped into the past. Memories from the places where we searched for maturity and independence are the residue that is left behind. The interplay between immediate experience and adult recollection of these spaces is where I search for the understanding of adulthood.
As children develop they move farther and farther from home and into secluded places such as schoolyards, suburban streets, trails, and empty lots adjacent to neighborhoods. These locations are where children walk home from school, ride dirt bikes, smoke cigarettes, and act out the fantasy of adulthood. The fragility of youth is also exposed in these spaces. The absence of supervision, naive experimentation, and the threat of injury and abductions create an environment filled with uncertainty and the dangers of the unknown. This scenario parallels the psychological transition that people endure in their pursuit of maturity.
As an adult, my search for clarity and the understanding of maturity continues through the recollection of childhood memories and the expectations of what it means to be a grown up. My father passed away when I was a twenty. This event and his resulting absence propelled me into adulthood, thus impacting my recollection of childhood. The loss of my father allows me to recognize the lingering memories of adolescence that reside in the spaces where I attempted to shed my youth. The distance between memory and immediate experience is obscured. This transitory space is where I collect fragments that evoke the universal sensation of becoming an adult.
Daniel Farnum was born and raised in the blue-collar town of Saginaw, Michigan. His photographs address the American experience, landscape, and culture and have been showcased nationally in several exhibitions and galleries in San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and New York.
He is the recipient of many notable awards such as Best in Show in the Midwest Contemporary exhibition from Natasha Egan and Karen Irvine at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, an award from Ann Pallesen at Photo Center Northwest in Seattle, two prizes from the Paul Sack Architectural Photography Contest at the San Francisco Art Institute, and the Juror's Selection Award given by Christopher Rauschenberg in an exhibition at the Center for Fine Art Photography. Daniel also received an award in a show titled Landscape Interrupted by William Jenkins, who was responsible for the New Topographics exhibition while curator of the International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman House.
Daniel’s prints have previously been exhibited at the Marin Museum of Contemporary Art, Black Box Gallery in Portland, Root Division in San Francisco, and at the Center for Modern Psychoanalytic Studies in NYC. Daniel’s photographs have also been featured in multiple solo exhibitions in venues such as the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, Newspace Center for Photography in Portland, University of Wisconsin, and at Alibi Fine Art in Chicago.
Daniel received his MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and BFA from the University of Michigan. He is currently an Assistant Professor at The University of Tulsa.
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