2019-02 Manufactured-Dreamscapes, 2019-08 Homes & Gardens, 2019-08 Resistance, 2019-Newfoundland-Residency, 2020-05 RIC Student Gallery, 2020-05 W. Eugene Smith Fund, Canada, Closed, First-cut, Fish-plant, Image type, Maritimes, Newfoundland, Newfoundland-Keywords, Newfoundland-Residency, Newfoundland-Selections, Places, Projects, Seascape, Submissions

Homes and Gardens

Homes and Gardens

Our homes and gardens are spaces that are central in our lives; they are shaped by our interests, likes, dislikes and economy. Guided by our culture and community, they are formed into a place reflecting the character, priorities, and compromises that families and individuals make.

I am interested in what peoples around the world share and what makes them different. My approach is to get some sense of their character and possibly the history of events and the environment that shaped its development. The question becomes how do you determine what is a peoples’ character and then how do you express a thing that is often thought to be invisible. Many portrait photographers look to photographing a gesture, a look in the subject’s eyes, etc. But rather than take pictures of people, I look at their activities and the outcomes of what they do. I photograph the things left behind, the artifacts of human activity, such as homes, buildings, equipment, landscapes, art, and food, because each of these is shaped by people, who have beliefs, priorities, and culture. These things are the side effects of normal experience, but when you look at them closely, you can see within them an accumulation of a history of innovation, change, and accommodation, that might be otherwise unseen and we often take for granted.

A closed fish processing plant serves as a monument to the past industry

Set on the northshore of Newfoundland, this essay explores the roots of contemporary issues, many born of globalization.  By the 1990s global demand for cod had depleted the local fishery putting thousands of people out of work, yet as if in compensation, first was a global demand for oil that drove off-shore drilling, and second was an increase in global tourism in search for authenticity. These forces together compelled a transition towards a new economy that challenged the local identity and established social norms. 

Individual homes and gardens are often a reflection of ourselves: our character, our likes, livelihood and class.  Using photographs, this work presents a record of changes in buildings and architectures that correspond to changes in the economy and the values of its people over the last century and a half; the rise and fall of a class system; the past generation of elites replaced by a current generation. The documentary style lays bare the evidence in a simple and tangible form consistent with the straightforward, plain-spoken nature of the people, while our thoughts prompted by the images, meander among the unseen tensions.

In a broader sense, around the world, we are witness to traditional livelihoods succumbing to new ones. As we often see ourselves in terms of what we do, one’s livelihood and identity is often indistinguishable, leaving those impacted with a sense that the loss of a job is the loss of who they are.  While a community may be able to transition to a new economy, many individuals will not.  The tensions that develop can lead to resistance in various forms including protectionism, reduced tolerance and a search for quick fixes that only superficially address the problems.