Town & Country
I live and work on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. I reside in “the country,” but work in Honolulu, which we commonly refer to as “town.” The island is relatively small (about 44 x 30 miles at its greatest dimensions) but it manages to contain significant rural and urban areas, and is experiencing a wave of suburban development.
These photographs are part of an ongoing series which is primarily composed of large-scale, outdoor still lifes made on Oahu. Cars, plants, and buildings are all common subjects within this body of work, and I try to make careful use of saturated color and transitory lighting. The photographs function as reflections of the commerce and culture from which they stem, but they are also meant to be reflections on the meaning and brevity of life.
When I was a child, my family would sometimes gather at my grandparents' house to watch slideshows. We would haul the projection screen up from the basement, spread its tripod legs, and pull the screen down with a flourish. Meanwhile, Grandpa “fiddled with” the projector and the trays of slides. Sitting in the darkened living room, we viewed images from their most recent retirement travels, as well as family trips from earlier decades. I think I got my first ideas about tourism from these slideshows.
I distinctly remember one batch of slides from a road trip that the family took when my mother was a child. They traveled cross-country, heading west from Chicago, and stopping at state parks and historical sites. This looked like the American Dream to me, and I wanted it. I wanted to see the great expanses of land, breath in the historical significance of designated sites, and set foot in the places my mother had walked. As an adult, I have traveled by train, plane, and automobile back and forth across the United States, paying special attention to places that have been designated by one group or another as places of interest or preservation.
While I embrace and enjoy my role as tourist, my ideas about museums, monuments, national and state parks, and iconic American landscapes are more complicated than they used to be. When I was a child, I didn't know about Manifest Destiny (the prevalent 19th century notion that it was America's destiny to expand westward). I didn't know that the Pilgrims and the Indians were not best friends. I didn't understand what it meant to view land as a commodity, or how trains and automobiles had changed everything – how Americans began to view the land zipping by, framed by small rectangular windows. And above all, I was unaware that my own ideas of self, place, rights, and belonging were so heavily influenced by the manner in which the American story was told.
These photos were taken over the course of about a year's time, during several trips and an extended stay in the home where I grew up. The title of the series comes from Thorton Wilder's play of the same name.
EMILY: “Let's really look at one another!...It goes so fast. We don't have time to look at one another. I didn't realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed... Wait! One more look. Good-bye , Good-bye world. Good-bye, Grover's Corners....Mama and Papa. Good-bye to clocks ticking....and Mama's sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new ironed dresses and hot baths....and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth,you are too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every,every minute?”
STAGE MANAGER: "No. Saints and poets maybe...they do some.”
― Thornton Wilder, Our Town
Epilogue (after Tutu)
Statement in progress...
My friend Buz passed away unexpectedly a few months ago. At his funeral, I watched from the crowded shoreline as a group paddled out to spread his ashes. Above, a helicopter scattered flowers, while below, a boy stood waist-deep in the water.
Full Stop, Comma
There are moments when life seems quietly hyper-real to me. The best way that I can think of to describe them is as moments when I realize myself. In these instances, parts of the world appear to move in slow motion, or I feel as though I am the only moving component of a brief freeze-frame. In this soft, sharp, punctuating space, I sense the meeting of the temporal and the eternal.
In 2004, a friend and I hiked El Camino de Santiago, a Medieval pilgrimage trail running primarily across the north of Spain. The trail has enjoyed a resurgence of interest in recent years, and we met pilgrims who had come from all around the globe to make the trek.