Last weekend I had the opportunity to visit Wheeler County, the region of Oregon I plan to focus on over the coming months. Although I already have quite a strong body of imagery to carry into my Final Major Project, I definitely intend to continue shooting and building upon my work, taking a long form, immersive approach to creating this project.
I am eager to spend more time in Wheeler County, as it is the least populated region of Oregon. The majority of people live in three small towns; Fossil (Pop. 446), Spray (Pop. 160) and Mitchell (Pop. 120) each located around 30 miles from the next. I continue to learn more about the life of young people in these areas. I am particularly interested in the boarding programs at the schools, without which, they would not have enough students to operate. Even with these boarding programs in place, graduating classes average around 5 students, or less.
On this trip, my intention was to learn more about the area and introduce myself to local residents. I visited a high school basketball match in Spray and was able to speak with the cheerleading team. Despite the poor lighting conditions in the gym, I was happy to capture some images that I could share with them. I would like to photograph this group again, having been inspired by Alice Mann’s series Drummies.
The town of Mitchell was my base for two nights. I met a number of local residents who warmly welcomed me and were happy to share their knowledge of the town. I see great possibilities for creating work here, and am interested to learn more about the life in this extremely remote location.
On this trip, I also stopped in Dufur for one night, where I have been working closely with one family. The series ‘The White House on Main Street’, which I began last module, documents the life of Meliney and her experiences growing up in small town America. I initially intended for these photographs to be included in Witness Marks, but I feel it has become its own body of work. Although I am now placing this work on a back burner, I will continue to slowly add to it over time. The connection I have formed with the family will hopefully allow me to capture Meliney at different stages of her childhood and maybe even into her teenage years.