Research/Creative Work Statement:
Photography has persisted as my trusted companion and medium for contemplation since 1964. Initially my practice was naïve, situated within the snapshot / 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 engagement has been progressively more purposeful.
The discovery of an album of photographs taken by a North Dakota woman (Nina Weiste) in 1917, profoundly influenced my creative trajectory. Although I have never met Nina, her 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 relationship with photography.
During a four month Artist Residency in the North Dakota town where Nina made her photographs, I incorporated family photographs as catalysts for sharing life-stories. My method involved approximately eight-hundred local residents, ages five-years old to one-hundred years old. Consequently, community focus and themes of interconnection emerged to become fundamental considerations within my practice.
My North Dakota project inspired by the discovery of Nina’s photo archive produced numerous exhibitions, many presentations, and the publication of my first 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 affect on the course of my life endures. She is a trusted guide.
After fifty-six years of commitment, photography prevails as my trusted companion and source of contemplation. My productivity continues to be snapshot / family album centric. But now, thanks to meeting Nina Weiste through the serendipitous discovery of her family photographs, my practice is slightly less naïve.