Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Good Man

I decided to write the weekend post about a recent trip I took for a photo shoot.

I drove to McLeansboro Illinois to find and photograph a site of a tragic accident.

I really do not like to drive around in the country and photograph, particularly by myself. I feel incredibly uncomfortable doing this. There are a few reasons for this. I had been warned several times when I went to school in southern Illinois to watch out for gun-wielding folks who love their property, privacy, and do not appreciate creative types roaming around on their property to make art. Fair enough.

You never know who or what you may encounter on a photo shoot like this and you cannot assume everyone is on the same page about a photographer’s legal rights. Certainly photographing in the middle of nowhere is not as dangerous as photographing in a war zone, but you really never know what can happen. (I am hearing one of my professors in graduate school chiding me by saying, “you and your middle-class assumptions about rural people.”) But now, I’ve lived in the southern Illinois and Indiana region long enough to know you can never be too cautious.

In this case, I was fortunate enough to find a cemetery. I was not sure if I was in the exact location of the accident but this was plenty good for me. I figured no one would find it suspicious if a woman wandered around a cemetery. I could hear a dog barking in the distance but I was not confronted by anyone. Victory.

I tried to find any reason I could to avoid this photo shoot. I looked at the notes I jotted down after reading the news headline to see why the story inspired me in the first place. After looking at my notes again, I realized the news headline resembled the short story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor, one of my favorite authors. “Good Man” is a much more sinister tale but there were similarities. O’Connor knew how to turn the knife in a story, her characters always getting their just deserts. I don’t think she had pity for any of her characters, which, frankly, I find really refreshing AND disturbing.

At that point, I knew I had to go to the location to photograph. And, I realized I had a language to use to talk about my project, “Without Man.” I guess what I mean by that is I know what compels me to read O’Connor’s work, its style, and I want to pursue the photographic equivalent of that style. Naturally, I’ll be looking at William Eggleston and Clarence John Laughlin for inspiration. I’m still not sure exactly where the project will go from here on out, but I feel this is a break through. I am glad I pushed through the discomfort to get to this point. 

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