For the past 15 years I have been using photography to explore ways that people interact with their environment and transform the urban landscape with aesthetic markers of culture and ethnicity. Recently I have been documenting sites where the urban environment has been modified to accommodate desires and needs, which in turn signify class and economic position.
For example the work in the Places of Worship gallery should be understood as documents of a type of vernacular transformation of public space in the urban environment. That is, structures intended for one type of use have been adapted into another use. Similarly the Front Yards gallery reflects my interest in how the objects and landscaping of front yards are used by the inhabitants as signifiers that communicate the class, ethnicity and identity of the home dwellers to both the people that pass by on the sidewalk, and their neighbours.
The Mexican Street Shrines gallery reflects my interest in how the images of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, Santo Judas and Santa Juquila have been domesticated into sidewalk and roadside shrines in Mexico. While many of the photographs were taken in Mexico City, some are from smaller towns in the areas that surround the city, and from the state of Oaxaca. The shrines in Mexico generally reflect the sophisticated and complex history of colonization and integration of Catholic beliefs with indigenous spiritual practices.
Many of the Mexican Photos reflect my interest in the photographer’s role as an outside observer of things that are foreign or exotic to the photographer. In the photographs, it is important that one of the subjects’ gaze looks back at the photographer. This engages the viewer in the scene at the moment the picture is taken, and demonstrates in a tangible way that the photographer is not an invisible observer, but also being observed. The scene then exists in the space between the act of picture taking and the subject of the photo. The photographer is an active part of the scene, but still an other, outside the ritual of belief or street scene being acted out. These photos are unplanned, except in that I seek out locations I think will be interesting. In addition, this series has some of the street scenes without people, that appealed to me.
The series Playgrounds originated many years ago when abroad with two young children and being confronted with inadequate, or in some cases dangerous play spaces. In the course of documenting these spaces, I realized that the treatment of play spaces demonstrated different cultural and national attitudes towards care of the young.
My current project Dashboards documents the personal objects on dashboards and hanging from the rear view mirrors of automobiles as seen through the windshield. The photographs also show a visual interplay between the external world reflected on the front windshields and the interior objects on display. This interplay highlights the glass as a liminal boundary that separates the personal space of an auto’s interior, from the public sphere.