Still life with a rose submerged in carbonated water. February 2020.
This photo is (probably) my favorite from my Rotten series.
In this series I photographed food that would otherwise have been discarded. I produced this work as a play on the traditional still life and a reflection of my own habits.
I became frustrated with the amount of waste leaving my own home. At the same time I was enamored with colors and textures that appeared when food, especially fruit, was left to rot.
By taking lighting cues from the Old Masters and utilizing broken, dried, molded or otherwise unappetizing provisions as subject matter, I juxtaposed some of our traditional presentations of edible beauty with our waste.
This work also speaks to the luxury of my ability to consider the scrapping of food when a great many communities cannot. Our continued refinement of food production enables us to have greater control over appearances until it reaches our home, but afterwards we easily discard that which develops an unpleasant appearance. Even if the food maintains quality, we will quickly dispose of that which looks unappealing. Granted, some of the elements used in this work were literally disgusting, but much of the material could have been eaten or otherwise reused without ill effect.
With this work I explore concepts of what is appealing, succulent and edible while exploring my own standards of that which sustains. This work ventures to bring the focus back to ordinary decay and natural cycles. With the desire for cleaner, newer, brighter, shinier or clearer substance we readily discard that which is still — or even more — beautiful once left to natureâ€™s own processes
Mississippi is a bit of home. There isn’t anywhere I’ve spent as much time, and very few places I’ve done as much photography. I tend to tread carefully with that imagery however. It’s a loaded space to photograph — nearly everyone I’ve known has history there, and not all of it pleasant.
How do you go from broadly painted strokes to personally vivid, narrowly focused work? Where is a starting point, maybe a touchstone for focusing in on a single moment? If that can be found, then we can work backwards and build a narrative that involves the history and the presence of the area. Instead of a few vague thoughts, we will have created a solid construct to handle all the information and emotion from engaging such an overpowering entity.
I had the exceptional opportunity to photograph in two dear places in late February. One, the town of Natchez, was where I was born and spent a great majority of my early life. Walking around downtown and visiting my grandparent’s old home and church, taking photographs of places I’d been photographing since nearly my first roll of film. It was remarkable in the quiet and nothingness of a sunny Tuesday afternoon. The other location was around my in-law’s family farm house. My wife’s great-aunt passed away in the late 1990’s and the house had been untouched in many ways since. Although the property is occupied with equipment and horses, the house itself has been devoid of permanent residence in over a decade. Being granted permission to photograph the rooms as I found them was a luxury — the insight into what is still a very accurate portrait of life there was amazing.
Using those two locations as the general map for tracking a path across Mississippi, I gathered material for a series tentatively titled “Where the Dust Settles.” Below is one of the photographs from that series. All film, either Ektar 100 (120) or Ilford HP5+ (35mm).
The simplicity of a bathroom — a heater, a cabinet. Left ajar for a dozen or more years. To be honest, I don’t even know if the cabinet is empty. There could very well be medicine, band-aids, old magazines and Maalox waiting for a bit of light to shine in. But it was not my turn to disturb the scene. I set up, metered/focused and exposed the film.