to the experiences happening around me, and to seek out the untold story through photography and writing. My work, while rooted in journalistic and documentary practices, is also influenced by archetypal storytelling, iconography, symbolism, and the Atomic Age. I am inspired by the idea of capturing important iconic moments in history, as well as creating and re-imagining established icons and archetypes. In one way or another, I have dedicated my life to exploring the endless cultural diaspora that exists in the nooks and crannies of the United States.
When I was 16 I spent a summer tagging along with a documentary film crew that took us cross country conducting interviews with groups I had never heard of before, including leaders of the American Indian Movement in South Dakota, a Voodoo priestess in Louisiana, and two grand wizards of the KKK in Indiana and Arkansas. This was the first time in my life I was confronted with the symbiotic relationship between tragedy and survival that creates the passionately individualistic fabric of our country. I found that this irony has created a nursery for powerful artistic expression, such as the undeniable relationship between slavery and rock 'n' roll, or how the Ghost Dance was created in the hopes of sending White settlers back to their homeland, or how European gospel hymns were appropriated by African Americans and used as battle march anthems in the '50s and '60s. This experience taught me first hand that art is how humans survive when faced with extinction, and it instilled in me a desire to continue documenting the stories that affirm this greater truth.
In my travels abroad, I've often listened to the way people in places like Sao Paulo or Tokyo view the United States. From these conversations I have found that from WWII until now, the United States has managed to create one of the most powerful brands on Earth. No matter how misleading, to millions of people, our country is the land of hamburgers for every meal, televisions in every room, and huge, wild, undisturbed lands full of mystery and possibility. These experiences spurred my interest in exploring the ways advertising and branding techniques are able to create and manipulate story to alter beliefs and transform fiction into truth, and how the images and icons that are produced from these “neo-truths” are globally worshiped. I am interested in deconstructing these icons, through documentary photography, to showcase the greater truth that is revealed by irony.
When I travel around the country writing about and photographing individuals and communities, I see more dilapidation than I do infrastructure. I see the crumbling ruins of the images that have captured the world's imagination and bought their devotion. Yet, in these ruins I see truth; I see the impermanence of culture and the creativity that comes from the struggle for cultural survival.
My work is created in the ruble of a time quickly fading away, but also in a new world that is springing up like daises through the cracks. It's created in Po' Monkey's one room juke joint in Merigold, MS, where the ceiling is covered in 60-some years of memories and toy monkeys; on the stage where burlesque dancer Ophelia Flame celebrates her 50th birthday; in a pregnant Kaa Folwell carrying on the torch of her grandmothers with the force of 1000 Tewa women behind her; and in the tears I have seen Deb Haaland cry as she spoke to me of the corn fields of Laguna Pueblo.
I believe that every human's story is a gospel in its own right, a litany of experience that only one spirit was chosen to narrate. In a country were so many things have originated, there are so few truthful documents of their creators and inheritors. There are so many stories that are ignored, discredited or forgotten. Thus, I believe it is my job to participate in the improvement of our world narrative for current and future generations.