As a teenager, I couldn’t wait to escape the farm where I grew up. I traveled with friends to cities and towns with no plan and very little money, making our way as we went; sleeping in cars, on a stranger’s floor or pooling money for a hotel room. Those experiences stayed with me, and my desire to understand them drew me back to that life of escape, or some precise analogue thereof, years later to make photographs.
The photographs in Leviathan follow my experience of dislocation at a remote community in Appalachia. Inadvertently, I had found myself on another farm; a warped doppelganger of the one I had known growing up. Things seemed slightly altered of their identity and with this as my guide, I stepped away from a presumed knowledge of where I was. I followed aquatic themes emerging in my photographs, recalling stories of escape and confrontation with the unknowable on the sea; Ishmael's flight from New York City aboard the Pequod or Jonah’s attempt to escape God’s will by boarding a ship bound for the far off land of Tarshish. Sometimes places of disparate cultures and geographies are linked. This connection lies beneath the surface, and its meaning is ambiguous. Even the Appalachian mountains looming around me got their name from the Native American word “apala,” or “great ocean.” The sequence of photographs in Leviathan suggests a subjective narrative where these worlds have converged.
My photographs revolve around my experience growing up on a farm in rural Virginia, the fictional possibilities of photography and photography books, and my interest in Romantic and southern literature. In my work I use the language of realism to construct a fictional world, one that points to allegorical and mythological themes. These photographs are often a negotiation between the world and my projections. To put it another way, they are a combination of observation, imagination and my experience.
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