Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Why dirt?

As a kid, one of my brother’s best friends once said, “When I grow up, I’m not going to live anywhere.” While never quite sure exactly what he meant, we liked the concept of it. Now it appears I may be coming close to fulfilling his ambition: with a new job I will be moving from city to city, most living out of hotels and sublets, specifically focused on getting to know the region in which I’m working. Long-term community planning should expose me to such diversity of American landscapes (and perhaps non-American ones) that I figure it’s time to take my background in city planning and put it to work, stating what I think about the built or unbuilt environment and generating good dialogue.

I’m not a professional photographer, as will be obvious almost immediately. Many of my photos are taken out of the window of a car while pulled to the verge, with blinkers flashing. But the goal is to take photos of landscapes that struck me in some way, and simply to ask “What does it mean?” The goal here is not to politicize, though many of the conclusions I might draw will ineluctably reference politics. I might make suggestions, but they will try to be within limitations of what is fiscally or culturally pragmatic given a specific environment. I’m not trying to sway any municipal elections or to instigate widespread reform; I’m not supported by any homebuilder, trucker or environmentalist lobby. I’m just here to use my senses, to help other people use their senses, and perhaps for my readers to guide me when my eyes might be failing (or failing to help elicit good ideas).

Part of this blog comes from my city planning background—but since I was little, I have loved to walk or drive around and explore new areas. I’m not particularly discriminating. I love cities, I love rural areas, suburbia, the contemporary frontier. I like refineries, caves, junkyards, gardens, burial grounds, dead malls, alleys, parking lots, mobile home parks. Climate does not bother me much; I’m very adaptable. If, based on this description, the focus of this blog appears to be undefined and discursive, I hope that my essays—based on material culled from photographs and light research—to demonstrate breadth of thought and a cogent argument. A lot of my material will no doubt relate to infrastructure because I think the most overlooked and banal landscapes often yield the greatest expressive potential. Whether roads, power lines, military installations, skyscrapers, or McMansions, the writing will reference upon their importance as contemporary American landscapes. Analysis should always precede value judgments. Ultimately this blog concerns itself with the playing field—the substructure of American dirt, regardless of where I claim to “live” at that moment. Dirt is a versatile proxy, mundane and ubiquitous, representing the greater stage upon which all human participants tend to their own aspirations, leaving non-indigenous built forms which my aging digital camera hopes to capture.

Thank you for reading, and I hope you are willing to share your own thoughts and love of landscapes along with me.


Anonymous said...

As you know, your article on rest areas caught my eye a few months ago and since then I look forward to each new post. As I was reading mostly new posts, a week or so ago I went back to the beginning and read a few of your early posts. I was immediately impressed on how far in quality and depth that “Dirt” has developed into over the past year and half. Your recent posts are very professional, polished and for a lack of a better term “academic”. Not to say your early posts where bad, in fact quite the opposite. To me your early posts are well written but show more of your personality, which I find appealing also, “smutty hedonism” is my new favorite phrase. But I am writing this comment not to tell you what a big fan I am, as you already know that, but to tell you how you have changed a part of me. You wrote “I’m just here to use my senses and to help other people use their senses”. Well, I can honestly say you have changed the way I see the urban landscape. The other day I was driving in downtown New Orleans and took a turn onto a street, just a regular street but as I looked out through the windshield….this is hard to put into words….I was overwhelmed with information pouring into my brain. I saw the street, cars, people, buildings like I usually do but on top of that I saw labelscars, brick paths that will be trouble to maintain, power lines that cannot be buried, bumpy mats for blind pedestrians. It was a sensory overload, the best way I can try and explain it was like I had been deaf but now could hear and see at the same time. That may seem overly dramatic but it’s the best way I can explain it. So I just wanted to let you know that you have accomplished what you set out to do with “Dirt”, at least with one person. Oh… and you where wrong about one thing in your first post. You are supported by a trucker…..well at least an ex-trucker. I expect to see you go on to bigger and better things but keep writing and I will keep reading.