Research/Creative Work Statement by Roddy MacInnes
I’ve been practicing photography since 1964. Initially my approach was situated within the snap-shot / family album genres, and with minimal consciousness of why I was taking photographs. Since gaining an undergraduate degree, (25 years after taking my first photograph) and later a graduate degree, my use of the medium has constantly evolved towards a more conscious practice.
The discovery of an album of photographs taken by a North Dakota woman (Nina Weiste) in 1917, profoundly affected the direction of my creative work. Nina’s photographs triggered a search that became deeply personal. They created a lens through which I could examine how family memories are constructed and reinforced, and allowed me to extend that understanding to my own experiences.
During four-months as a Visiting Artist in the North Dakota town where Nina made her photographs, I incorporated family photographs as catalysts for sharing life-stories. I engaged approximately eight-hundred local-residents, ages five-years old to one-hundred years old. As a consequence, community engagement and themes related to interconnection emerged to be central within my practice.
The North Dakota project, inspired by the discovery of Nina’s photo archive, produced numerous exhibitions, many presentations, and the publication of a book, Family Album (2017). Post publication of Family Album, I presumed the project was complete and consequently, my relationship with Nina was over. However, her spirit decided otherwise. And so, Nina’s influence on the course of my life endures.
My current project: One Thing Leads to Another is the continuation, or second chapter of Family Album, and proposes to highlight connections that exist between: the community in Northern Finland where Nina’s family originated; the community in Northern Michigan where they migrated to in 1880, (and co-incidentally where I first resided in the US in 1974) and the community where Nina’s family homesteaded in South Dakota.
Personal art project productivity slowed between publishing Family Album, and initiating One Thing Leads to Another. This was due to focusing my energy facilitating community engaged class experiences for students, and reimagining the photography infrastructure at the University of Denver to accommodate a related multidisciplinary minor.
Having secured most of the funding necessary to create the facility, plus a teaching course release (Fall, 2020) to design the new minor, (Photography and Intergenerational Community Engagement) my personal creative pursuits and teaching interests have become closely tied. One thing led to the another.