Sustainable Prospects, Project Development

A teenage girl rides her bike through the streets of Shaniko (Pop. 36).

I have been working on my current project about rural communities in central Oregon for almost a year now, and at this point, I feel a need to hone down my focus to a more specific aspect of this region - especially looking forward to my final major project. I had a helpful tutorial with Jesse last week, in which we discussed different possible directions for this work. One idea, which I have been considering for sometime, is to focus on the young residents in these areas. My motivation for this is to gain a better understanding of the future for these towns. These small communities generally have a declining, aging population, and I wonder if young people will stay here as they grow older. At the same time, I would also like to learn about the day to day lifestyle of children and teens in these areas. With the majority of the U.S (and global) population now living in urban areas, I am interested in documenting this alternative way of life.

Amongst the work I have already made, I believe that some of the strongest images are of children or teens. I enjoy being around young people, and through my work as a teacher, I have gained plenty of experience working and collaborating with them. Having spent twelve months on this project, I know that I am passionate about the culture, people and landscape of this part of Oregon, and I believe that I am equally interested documenting the lives of the young Americans who live there. I have begun connecting with people in central Oregon with young family members, and I plan to shoot in the town of Dufur next weekend.

As I contemplate this idea, I look to other photographers who document youth in their work. Four practitioners initially come to mind - Maria Stern, Tobias Zieloni, Vanessa Winship and Isadora Kosofsky. I will be exploring each in greater detail moving forward, but I wanted to share a segment of a review on Winship’s series She Dances on Jackson which particularly stood out to me. 

Vanessa Winship, from ‘She Dances on Jackson’ Published by MACK.

‘In this rather desolate land we encounter people. Winship is a magnificent portrait photographer. In She Dances on Jackson she continues working with young people, creating a stunning number of utterly arresting photographs. A little more than halfway into the book, we encounter one of the key portraits in the book, a young couple. The young man (still more a boy than a man really) and woman are holding hands, and her left hand rests on his chest, with a crease of his t-shirt in between the index and middle finger. The young man appears quite a bit more fragile than his girlfriend, who seems to put a claim on him. Even though their eyes meet the viewer’s it is hard to guess what might be going on in their minds; it’s tempting to see worry, a bit of uncertainty and a hint of defiance (isn’t that the signature of youth, that you still defy the world?).

This hints at what makes the portraits so strong and this book so convincing. It would have been tempting to produce a sad-sack tour of the troubled land, with jobs gone and people struggling to get by. But there always is that hope or that defiance that you have when you’re young. You don’t really know what is going to happen, but it’s going to be alright. You’ll make do, one way or the other.’ (Colberg, J. 2013)

Colberg, J. Vanessa Winship: She Dances on Jackson. 2013.  [Online]. [Accessed 17 September  2018]. Available From:

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