“I lean toward the enchantment, the visual power, of the esthetically rejected subject,” Walker Evans

My passion for the landscape informs my work as I photograph the man-altered environment and explore its cultural implications in suburban settings. I grew up in the suburbs. I fled the suburbs as soon as I could. I never understood why I had such a strong urge to do so until, as an artist, I started photographing them.

When I think about how things have changed between then and now, I realize that my early response was much like that of photographers in the seminal photography exhibit of 1975 “New Topographics: Photographs of the Man-altered Landscape” at the George Eastman House in Rochester, NY. While their concerns dealt with the urban sprawl of the 1950’s and 60’s and my interest is what is happening to the suburbs today, the banal architecture, the conformity, the you-could-be-anywhere-or-nowhere feeling that one has with suburban architecture is similar.

Now, however, something else is going on that is very different from what those artists experienced. The architecture may have been banal and insipid but when you look at their photographs, the neighborhoods were clean and well kept. The country seemed on an upward trajectory. When one looks at many suburbs in the U.S. now, one sees much more deterioration affecting the architecture that once was shiny and new.
I have been photographing the changes since 2008, coming back to some of the same buildings year after year, seeing no improvement. I have come to realize that my work, while encompassing the concerns--formal and otherwise-- of the New Topographic photographers, extends beyond them to try and understand what is happening in 21st century America where the optimistic, unfettered expansion that we experienced as a nation in the 1950’s seems to have reached a limit. The Great Recession of 2008 is over. But the deterioration, perhaps the result of online shopping, among other things, may be the reason I continue to see storefronts, abandoned buildings and shuttered malls in my travels across the country.

I see my work as the canary in the coalmine, perhaps signaling the beginning of the end of an era. I am just not sure. This is why I find photographing these buildings so interesting. I believe architecture may well serve as a bellwether of things to come. The work will lead me to the answer. I just have to be open to observing and listening to what it tells me.
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