With my photographs, I aim to explore the tensions in notions of selfhood and belonging. I highlight the uncertainty of the subject’s gaze, the ambiguity of the subject’s gesture, and the invisible yet persistent sense of boundary in the landscape. I find that the most revealing aspects of the self are those that are indefinable and unfixed. I turn to these moments of tension – almost always fleeting and fluid - to reflect upon personal and universal feelings of ambiguity of self, place, and home.
Through images, I explore the relationship between people as individuals and as citizens within their landscape. I am compelled by the very human attempt to simultaneously find acceptance and freedom, privacy and openness, restraints and possibilities. As the photographer, I try capture that tension in the human desire to rectify these contradictory needs.
Southold is an isolated town on the east end of Long Island. A rural waterfront hamlet of illustrious natural beauty, cultural isolation, and national tradition, Southold both emancipates its residents from larger American commercial changes, yet traps its residents in its American small-town narrative. The light in Southold Township is pervasive yet shifting. It transforms the entire landscape from an oppressive space to an expansive one daily. The inhabitants of the peninsula, keenly aware of the ever-present horizon, are both exposed to the ocean and isolated from the mainland. Having spent much of my childhood in Southold Township, with a presence as something between a local and an outsider, I often return to this home in search of these moments of ambiguity.
During my travels in the Israeli-Palestinian Territories, I encountered a land riddled with tensions. For Israelis and Palestinians alike, the concept of “home” is a historically fraught issue. Both the physical and the cultural landscape have been subjected to the truths and myths of family legacies and national identities. Territories, mapped and remapped throughout generations, overlap in a conflict of land confiscation, a rising cost of living, and environmental neglect. In this divided territory of natural beauty and urban sprawl, the search for a truly free home is a visceral one. With my photographs of the Israeli-Palestinian Territories, I seek to highlight the conflation of a divided self-identity and divided home by calling attention to these political and cultural borders. The photographs question the nature of these boundaries.
The United States’ landscape reveals essential contradictions within this country’s narrative of homeland and national identity. Official and unofficial “American” heritage sites draw in crowds of tourists: people captivated by “American” nostalgia. Efforts to engage visitors with a history that privileges a pioneer mythology strip the land of its truth, effectively fencing in a model “America”, alienated from its history, and enclosed as property for the amusement of docile consumers. In “American Terrariums,” I am drawn to the brief superficial stops of visitors looking to reinforce or challenge a constructed identity that denies this country’s history of settler colonialism. I highlight the curation disguised as preservation that occurs at celebrated landmarks. These scenes, or as I prefer to call them, terrariums, are artificial landscapes arranged for the perpetuation of the great American myth.
The photographs of Southold Township, Israeli-Palestinian Territories, and American Terrariums, alert the viewer to a dual sense of belonging and exclusion within physical, cultural, and projected surroundings. The subjects, visible and absent, are looking for home in a world beyond their horizon.