We were a little nervous about leaving our new home, but after leaving it in good hands with a friend and wonderful neighbors, we began to make our way across the country.
Since we were coming to Alabama in our Mini Paceman and it was loaded to the hilt, we made two trips to the truck scales in West Sacramento before we left California for good. We were 50 pounds under the Gross Maximum weight for our car (phew), so we felt pretty good about being able to handle crossing areas like the Grapevine with (some) ease. Before we left, we had to pack multiple times, rearrange, evaluate and reevaluate what we really needed. We ended up leaving a lot of things back in Elk Grove and ordering things like light stands and some UV lights that we will use as supplementary lights when shooting in the studio…Doug and I had planned on visiting friends in Los Angeles for a few days and seeing some museum and gallery shows, but we had to drive on through since we had to leave much later than we expected.
We stopped in Georgetown, Texas to visit my mother and stepfather and were fortunate enough to meet with photographer Robb Kendrick. You might have seen his work in National Geographic magazine among other publications. He has a few books and I love his work. We talked about photography, large projects and Disfarmer. Wow, what a wonderful conversation and a great way to set the tone for the trip. He’s completed a wet plate project on cowboys that I’ve always loved and he showed us some of the work he created. I was able to see the original plate from his book, Revealing Character. Absolutely amazing work and one of my favorite bodies of collodion work.
Visiting Robb, his wife Jeanine and son Gus was a great experience that I will not soon forget. Artists like Robb keep me inspired visually and motivate me to really give my all to this project.
We were also able to see the very first photograph, Joseph Nicephore Niepce’s heliograph from 1822 at the Harry Ransom Center on the University of Texas campus. The exhibits in the museum were all closed, but the image was still on view in the lobby along with their copy of the Gutenburg Bible.
After traveling through California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, we arrived in Alabama to torrential rains. I guess we brought them with us! A “river” appeared in my father’s backyard after one particularly heavy rain, only to leave us with a beautiful rainbow once the rain broke for a bit. We’ve been working really hard to get the place we’ll be using to shoot into shape. We’ve cleaned it out, rearranged some of the display cases and are in the process of painting it before we’ll start using it for shooting. It’s taken a little longer than expected, but I know it’s going to be wonderful once it’s done. My Aunt Louise and Uncle George Wood are letting me borrow their store font property in Selma to complete the project. It’s a great space and will be very helpful when we start shooting. It’s even got a large display case that I will be able to display the plates that I’m making.
There is some open space around the property that I can also use to photograph people outside. I think it will be very versatile and allow the project to take shape while allowing variety within each session.
This project is the culmination of an idea I've had for a very long time and I'm hoping to get as much community support as possible. Using the historic wet plate process, I will be exploring how identity is shaped by environment. I’ll be capturing the likenesses of people from Selma and recording their experiences in brief audio interviews. I’ve decided that my goal is to ultimately create a book that will be a collection of wet plate portraits and contain the transcribed oral histories from each participant. I’m so very lucky to have the opportunity to show the project at Wesleyan College in early April.