The West has always captured the American imagination. Years ago, people went there with dreams of grandeur and hopes for a new beginning. When I moved to Idaho almost two years ago, I began to explore my new surroundings. I found myself drawn to towns that the economy had forgotten years ago, and I met the people that still lived there. These towns have boarded up windows, empty movie theaters, and bars that open at 10:00 in the morning. By interacting with my subjects and paying attention to their stories, I explore the hopes and realities of living in these forgotten places.
For the Love of Dolphins
The following images were taken on a 13,000 mile motorcycle trip through rural America. Before I left I was inspired by stories of grandeur in the American West. What I found however, were small, bleak towns. Towns far past their prime, settled into a slow decay: vestiges of a former time. I became interested in the mundane stories of life in these places. A teenager riding his bicycle twenty miles to buy a sword. The muffled voices of people through hotel walls. By photographing these places and the people in them I hoped to relay their narrative.
In the Shadow of the Burning Dog
As a twenty-five year old male I am part of a wartime generation. A minority of my generation has chosen to participate in the war; most have remained stateside. As one who chose to stay I am interested in the people who left. They have experienced the brutality of war and I have not. In this body of work I have embedded myself in the aftermath of their homecoming. What is it like to have driven past banners on the highway, to have dreams of their service and learn to be civilian again? In Even Wright’s book Generation Kill an older marine said “Don’t pet a burning dog.” I have appropriated this “burning dog” as a symbol for war. All soldiers have seen, touched or felt it. They have lived in its shadow since their service. By photographing these men in their domestic spaces I am investigating their re-assimilation into their previous lives and society.
Trying to make it in the Heart of Dixie
The following images were taken in the summer of 2010 in Hale County, Alabama. I arrived there two months after a series of devastating tornados ravaged the area. The final three images I took after a near-death motorcycle accident in Cumberland County, Kentucky on my way home to Maine.
I met Larry Trott outside of the Cigarette Shopper on Congress Street in Portland, Maine. I asked him for his photograph and we began to talk. He mentioned that he had been imprisoned for thirty-five years. I asked him why; he paused, and then mumbled something about a murder. I half heard him and asked for an interview. Over the next few months I visited Larry many times to talk about his childhood, the murder of his grandfather, and his imprisonment.
Larry’s grew up in Eastport, Maine. His father, an alcoholic, hated him because he had to sell his guns to pay for Larry’s birth. His mother was English and died young leaving Larry and his siblings with their father. Larry’s father molested and beat his children. He spent all the money he made off of carving wooden birds on liquor. Subsequently Larry and his siblings often went hungry. Because of his family’s impoverished condition teachers and students ridiculed him alike.
In the early sixties Larry joined the Marines and was shipped to Hawaii. He began to start fights. He told me that he would often get into at least three fights a day. He was subsequently discharged and returned home. He was soon married and had a son. His marriage quickly ended and Larry was left on his own again. He went to his grandfather’s house to ask if he could stay.
The account of the murder varied each time Larry described it to me. In one version his grandfather attacked Larry with a knife, another time it a pitchfork. He also told me that a fight ensued after his grandfather told Larry to stop drinking. Either way Larry beat his grandfather and then dragged him a few hundred feet to a wharf where Larry threw him off. He drowned and Larry was arrested the next day.
Larry once told me that he had killed the wrong man, a mistake within a mistake. The day his father died Larry wasn’t mourning but regretting that he would never get the chance to kill him.
Larry spent twenty-one years in prisons and mental institutions around the country. In 1988 Larry was released on parole. Due to violations his life was divided between incarceration and freedom. During my time of knowing him he met a woman named Jezebel. She was a mental patient who exchanged sex for a place to stay. Larry told me that they never slept together. Through other ex-cons in the building his parole officer heard of this and amended Larry’s parole forbidding him to have over night guests. I received a call from Larry later that day; he was very distraught and informed me that this amendment was violating his civil rights. He chose to ignore the new rule, knowing that it would mean his incarceration. Over winter break I called Larry to check in, a stranger answered and informed me that Larry had been arrested. He is now in the Maine State Prison and will most likely be there for the rest of his life.
This is a collection of images made while traveling.