San José State University, CA
Long Introductions are photographs made in backyards at night. Exposing color film for extended periods of time, I examine the ways domestic landscapes function as sites of cultural and ecological dialogues. Over the course of one year I was invited by family, friends, and acquaintances to make work in 21 different backyards. From affluent homeowners to working class renters, I look at the distinct ways they cultivate personal outdoor spaces. For the people whose yards I visit, the topography is so familiar they often ask, “why do you want to photograph in my yard?” The subtext implies the ease with which we overlook the significance of vernacular places. The mundanity of coiled hoses or unpruned rose bushes seems inconsequential, especially in close proximity to the monumental wilderness areas of California. As a female photographer who continues to trek into unpopulated landscapes at night to make photographs, I find the urban yard to be a more salient locus for conducting rituals of plant-human relationships.
Making photographs in the dark requires the careful application of artificial illumination. This process of surveying a yard for the first time in front of my camera, during ten to fifteen-minute exposures, illustrates a performance of familiarization and speculative imaginings. Just as an archaeologist studies evidence of cultures long passed, I examine evidence of domestication. Stone paths, flowerbeds, porches, fences, fruit trees, lawn chairs, shrubs, and other items of domestication offer clues as to how the inhabitants spend time in these intimate outdoor places.
In addition to being safe, private spaces, backyards reveal a modern-day index for understanding choices we make with regard to green space, creative labor, and social connection. They elicit intriguing dualities of (wo)man-made and nature, transience and permanence. These plots of land offer perspective on the social and environmental relationships we value.