These Happy, Golden Years

This body of work serves as a memorial to my great-grandmother, Illah Brown, and to the family that she built in a small town in southwest Iowa. These photographs are a visual representation of the 20th century American family structure as I have experienced it. They were made as a way for me to more intimately understand my deep nostalgia for the simpler days of the American past and my desire for radical, progressive change in the social landscape. My hope is that the photographs illustrate where these romantic notions of what America was and what America can be contradict and intertwine and where the contemporary family structure stands within them.

Each photograph was made in the home that my great-grandmother has lived in since 1973. As I graduate from college and begin my adult life, the life of my great-grandmother, a woman who has given me both life and great inspiration, nears its closure. My goal has been to make a series of photographs that serve as a family album of sorts, the most widespread and also intimate way in which the medium of photography has been shared since its beginning. This project is an ode to the old American family album as we redefine family units and roles, methods of distributing family photographs, and even what is constituted as a photograph-worthy event or moment in an era of camera-phones and social media.

I want these photographs to show how my family’s collective memory is filtered through the feelings that these spaces have acquired over the last 44 years. These images capture moments of soft light and color that serve as a reminder of the tenderness and tranquility I have felt in this place.