As a child of the West Coast, I always felt I knew north from south and east from west based on where the Pacific Ocean lies in relation to anywhere I stood. Family vacations from the low gray cloud cover of the Pacific Northwest more often than not involved piling into a large Chevrolet and barreling southward via the passes of the Siskiyou Mountains and Mt. Shasta through the olive groves and rolling hills of California. I can still feel the sweat pouring from my pre-teen thighs as they stuck to the vinyl upholstery while crammed in the back seat with my brothers in the years before every car came with air conditioning.
My mother’s family hailed from Southern Illinois and over the years they treated us to a number of animated road trip stories and photos that seemed ancient. Our maternal grandparents took western vacations as soon as the progress of automobiles allowed for such daunting trips and thankfully they brought a camera with them. A lover of Tom Mix, Buck Jones and Gene Autry, the West held my Grandfather’s imagination and it was a beloved legacy he warmly shared. There was no destination as grand as Pike’s Peak, the Painted Desert, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone or the Redwoods.
The promise of work at the Columbia River Shipyards in the 1940s was a lure both sets of my Grandparents could not deny as the country struggled to fortify its fleet following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. As Grandpa told the story, they drove as far West as their gas rations would take them. Whether it was a tough decision or not, never entered the narrative when my Grandparents seized the opportunity to move west with their children.
As the years progressed everyone in the family became deeply involved in building lives and exploring this new place with its deep wilderness so close at hand. There were dams and locks, fisheries and rodeos to explore, not to mention the ocean with clams to dig and driftwood and sand dollars and wild blackberries to gather. We were not hunters – we were gatherers and growers. And as the photos attest, we were three generations of posers.
The immensity of the Cascade Range, the Columbia River Gorge and the Sierras remains a compelling backdrop, to say nothing of the roadside attractions along the way. My grandmother often had a box camera at the ready and Dad learned photography while stationed in Alaska in the early 1950s, thankfully documenting many getaways in color transparency. The family slide show was a rare but beloved tradition and we roared with laughter at the most unflattering photos of the women in the cat-eye glasses of the early 1960s. The many shots in which Grandpa’s Pendleton wool clad arm hung to his side but pointed his index finger as if at some spot on the ground was rivaled only by Grandma’s giant purse, which she held proudly at every point of interest where she was photographed.
My father was also a reader of historical plaques. We sulked our way through every trip, rolling our eyes while waiting for him to read another dull bronze text only to find ourselves forty years later reading every plaque we encounter. I finally get it. In takes some history to find anything interesting about history.
Over the years, Mom was the only one in the family I ever heard who struggled in her longing for the old days and extended family in Illinois. It’s not that she didn’t love the West, but she was torn. Her childhood family moved in one direction. Her heart moved here and back again. She shared her own children’s sense of dread each time we moved and we moved often, up and down the coast and back and forth. When I learned about Manifest Destiny at Chinook Junior High in Bellevue, Washington, it struck a chord with me. Both the adventure and the anxiety of exploring or moving are compelling forces. The grandiose title stuck in my mind. In spite of the politics of the time in which the term was coined, it stayed with me as a kind of lifetime experience. I write this a month after Mom’s passing and while I wasn’t thinking of her when I conceived of the photography exhibition “Manifest Destiny,” I realize now my family’s role in forming the idea.
That’s enough now about me. Here’s something about the show:
Manifest Destiny opens at the Analog Salon in Culver City California on January 28 and runs through March 17, 2012.
My exhibition statement:
We came on foot, on horseback, by train, by ship and eventually by car and airplane. We came west for a multitude of reasons: for adventure, for economic opportunity, to escape the crowds of the East. Our quest over the last 200 years led to the discovery of a great expansive and rugged geography, of open range and potential farmland, of rich forests, wildlife, bountiful rivers and streams, to otherworldly desert scapes and to the vastness of the Pacific Ocean. While the term Manifest Destiny was used in the 19th century to promote transcontinental expansion and provide justification for the war with Mexico, it brought devastation to America’s native cultures. This exhibition is built more broadly around the concept of Western movement, of the need to discover what there is to find beyond the next hill.
Photographers by their nature are inquisitive beings, seeking or creating worlds in which to tell or repeat a visual story. The eight artists in this exhibition, Randi Berez, Claudio Cambon, Larry S. Clark, Nicholas Alan Cope, Amanda Friedman, Michael Kelley, Lisa Romerein and Todd Weaver, come from a variety of backgrounds. Some came to the West for reasons not that dissimilar from travelers of the past. Some have lived all their lives in the west and share a deep and abiding connection to this place as much for its open landscape as for its propensity for other forms of discovery, in architecture, in technology.
Our West Coast of the present has been exploited and broadly tamed by the generations that followed the original intrepid explorers and native peoples before them. The romance of the West still lingers, however, fascinating us with its wildness, its opportunity, it’s modernism, light, water, open mindedness, creative ingenuity as well as with its withering assets.
“As for the rodeo, a friend bought a small dude ranch in Miles City, Montana and was in the market for some cattle. I had become interested in photographing bull riders after attending a few Professional Bull Riders events. Trying to get in to photograph the PBR guys was very difficult. They are professional athletes isolated by the same machine that regulates access to celebrities. By contrast, Miles City was a slow-paced, action-packed drama. After arranging for a bogus press pass, I could go anywhere, do anything. Growing up in Los Angeles, the Bucking horse sale felt like an artifact from a period in time that will soon disappear. It was spectacular.” Randi Berez attended UC Berkeley and has photographed for Esquire, Fast Company, Men’s Health, The New York Times Magazine, ESPN, Men’s Journal, Outside, Women’s Health, Life and others. Her commercial clients include Nike, Adidas, Converse, and Samsung.
“Shooting at SpaceX was like shooting at a top secret military facility. I was struck by the enormity of the space; the building is a vast expanse with super tall ceilings, huge hanger doors, and slick concrete floors. Of course the best part of spacex is their hardware. I love all things space… so to stand next to, and photograph their capsules, rocket engines, rocket bodies, fuel tanks, etc. was fantastic! It was cool to imagine shooting something that would hopefully, soon be flying in the outer edges of our atmosphere.” Raised in Las Vegas, Michael Kelley attended UCLA and then Art Center. He has received awards from the Communication Arts Annual, American Photography Annual, PDN, and the Association of Advertising Photographers.
Larry S. Clark
With roots in Los Angeles, Portland and Seattle, Larry S. Clark is an antique dealer who learned photography in his youth. His recent practice of documenting vintage architecture and iconographic ephemera on the West Coast has grown into the beginnings of a fine art practice. “Growing up in the era of Look and Life magazines and seeing certain images as a kid, like the burning monk photograph by Malcolm Browne and Nick Ut’s image of the girl running down the road in Vietnam, had a big influence on my interest in photography. I clearly remember when those photos were published. Maybe that led to my interest in the photography of the Farm Securities Act. Though not as horrific, I still want to know the story behind the photos.”
A recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship, Claudio Cambon is currently working on a project on religious festivals in Bangladesh. Since receiving his undergraduate degree from Yale University Mr. Cambon has photographed all over the world and across the American West where he worked as a hired hand on cattle ranches. “I have always sought refuge in expanses. In vastness I feel how much larger the world is than me, and in it I ask whether redemption is possible. I photograph these spaces to see whether the world can continue to be more beautiful than the sum of our mistakes, and forgive us the havoc we have wreaked.” His photographs have been exhibited and collected internationally as well as published in The New Yorker and Atlantic monthly.
“I started this project while in college in upstate New York, but it really came to fruition when I moved to Los Angeles. Being new to California, I was overwhelmed by the congestion, traffic, noise and general madness that goes along with living in a big city. As I continued to go out and photograph, I found myself drawn to places that contradicted my daily life. At first it was nothing more than an escape for me. Through the years as I’ve continued to grow this project, I’ve come to realize it goes beyond an escape. It’s not just about the city I live in, but also about this idea of loneliness that can be both tragic and inspiring.” Amanda Friedman studied at Rochester Institute of Technology and has exhibited in a variety of galleries in California and the mid-West. She won three American Photography Awards as well as a first place award for photo essay from PDN/National Geographic Traveler World in Focus
“The images are from a project on the architecture and landscape of Los Angeles. They function as an idealized survey of the city and aim to communicate my vision of the city. My goal is to display a landscape that is both modern and democratic, minimal and egalitarian. I began the project in college and have just recently started an effort to finish the series and release a book.” Nicholas Alan Cope’s photographs have been published in Interview, Japanese Vogue, Conveyor, Unpublished, The Wild Magazine, DigiFoto, ButDoesItFloat, 500 Photographers, L’Architecture d’aujourd’hui, Good, Surface and Filler. Awards include Communication Arts Photo Annual 2011, PDN’s 30 2011, American Photography 26 Selection 2010, Surface Magazine’s Avant Guardian 2009, PX3 Winner 2008.
“Growing up in the Northwest It might be a DNA mandate that I love trees. I love to study the light, space and weight of a forest and will forever be drawn to the raw beauty.” Seattle born Lisa Romerein studied photojournalism at Stanford University. She lives in Santa Monica where she specializes in food, travel, architecture, interior, garden, and portrait photography for a client list that includes Martha Stewart Living, Vanity Fair, Sunset, Town and Country and House Beautiful as well as major hotel and architectural firms. In addition, her photographs have appeared in numerous food and lifestyle books.
Born and raised in Kansas, Todd Weaver came to Los Angeles to follow his dream of becoming a cinematographer. “Along the way I found myself drawn to the pursuit of photography, loving its immediacy.” His style is a mixture of photo journalism that references filmic story-telling. There is an implied sense of action, with a loosely directed narrative that often evokes a feeling of voyeurism. He has photographed for Saatchi, Maverick Records and LADG Architecture and was selected twice for the American Photography Annual.
The Analog Salon is a fine art photographic exhibition space housed at Samitaur Constructs, the noted architectural firm, in partnership with Digital Fusion, a premiere digital photographic rental and post-production facility. The Analog Salon highlights the exceptional talent of new, emerging and established photographers with an emphasis on Los Angeles based artists.
The Analog Salon at Samitaur Constructs, 3535 Hayden Avenue, Culver City, California http://www.analogsalon.com/
http://gallery-store.digitalfusion.net/The-Analog-Salon/ Note: work from the Manifest Destiny exhibition will appear in the online store only after the show opens.