In 2009, I started a new portrait project. Just recently I decided on a title for the work - Lost in the Midwest. This work is about the unknown. It is about finding oneself and at the same time, losing oneself. Rebecca Solnit writes in her book A Field Guide to Getting Lost that we should celebrate the unknown rather than fear it. Losing things, losing ourselves, is part of our human experience. Instead we want control over our lives and this severely limits discovery and knowledge.
The Midwest is often times overlooked or missed entirely. Geographically we are in-between. People from either coast tend to just fly over us. This body of work will explore the complexities of life in the Midwest. The portraits I am interested in making are one on one and collaborative. I do not have a fixed idea before I begin. There is my subject, the lighting and the environment. I go by feel. I do not have a road map. The elements must come together and inspire me to shoot the photograph.
More than anything I am fascinated with people. I want to convey something deeper about my subjects than mere documentation. It is my intent for this work to reveal a tiny bit of the unspoken, the poetic, the immense mystery of being human. Curiosity pushes me to ask permission to photograph someone. My camera gives me a certain license to go inside, to reach beyond the surface.
I made these portraits recently of Tom Caufield and his dog, Norman Judd. I am very happy with the photographs and Tom likes them too. What I like best is that I think we captured a real essence --something very beautiful and real -- about who Tom is and also about his relationship with Norman Judd. And it got me thinking about the people I am photographing....some have been Iowans since birth - like me - but many of my subjects/friends are people who have moved to Iowa or the Midwest and made it their home. They uprooted and transplanted themselves. They adapted to being midwesterners. More to think about...how this landscape forms and informs who we are and who we become.