In 2010, graduating from art school with a BFA in Photography, I spent a summer in Rangeley, Maine. As a lake house caretaker, my home for five months was thirty miles from the nearest paved road, without electricity, internet, or hot water. I packed few possessions: a camera, clothing, playing cards, and several books, one being Stephen Shore’s Uncommon Places. Shore, an American photographer born in 1947, started a decade-long journey documenting his road trips across North America in 1972. Using an 8x10 view camera, he explored the changing culture of America, the vernacular landscape, empty streets and facades, intimate interiors, and people. Uncommon Places influenced countless photographers over the past 34 years, myself included.
I spent the summer of 2010 absorbed in this book. Going a little stir crazy in my cabin, I decided to go for a drive and stumbled upon Mexico, Maine, a town Shore photographed in 1974. His photograph of a barren, damp, lonely scene of a restaurant on Main Street still recognizable after almost forty years, prompted a new journey as I sought to locate and re-photograph all of Shore’s locations from Uncommon Places. So far, I have re-photographed all of the New England locations and those in New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. My husband and I spent our two-week honeymoon traveling across country in 2011, photographing in North Dakota, Wisconsin, Minnesota and other places along Shore’s northern route.
Traveling across America, seeking out and re-photographing these iconic images four decades later, I hope to echo and complicate Shore’s original evocations of changing culture, landscape, politics, and economy in North America. I am interested in the changes that have occurred across many communities and the way things have changed--or not--architecturally, culturally, and politically. What has changed over the past 40 years in a small industrial town like Greenfield, Massachusetts? What stories have been told over the past four decades in Post Falls, Idaho? In El Paso, Texas are there any more small businesses left and if so, who owns them? I hope to raise many questions such as these and make photographs that offer the visual pleasure of looking as well as provide a way of seeing objective change. I want to collect stories from the people I encounter, sharing Shore’s original photographs from Uncommon Places with them, and gaining knowledge about the past and the present in their locations, and their thoughts on the future of America.