Early in November I had the privilege of attending FotoWeek DC as a portfolio reviewer. Over the past few weeks I have been sharing the work of several photographers whose portfolios I reviewed.
Christine Pearl arrived at my table with a clear purpose in mind: to get her portfolios in shape for her upcoming reviews at Houston’s FotoFest in March. She came in looking for input on two in-progress bodies of work: Last Car Running, a long-term documentary in the fine-tuning stages, and an untitled new series of portraits. It was immediately clear to me that she had done her research on the gallery, how it functions, and the type of work featured in its newest venture, Don’t Take Pictures. I am always delighted when a reviewee has spent some time learning about The Kiernan Gallery’s projects as it allows the photographer in front of me to dive right into the work with an understanding of how might be able to advance their photographic career.
When looking at Last Car Running, we discussed sequencing and identified images that were strong in concept but could be reshot for a more dynamic portfolio. Having a set of loose 8x10 prints made this process easy.
With the new series of portraits, Christine explained her process and the frustrations she was having. Talking about her frustrations with the project showed that she was willing to work through challenges to create the best portfolio possible. It also showed that she was receptive to critique. This work was in its beginning stages and I looked for visual cohesion. We discussed the common attributes of the successful images and a possible creative direction to take moving forward.
Artist Statement for Last Car Running
This series of photographs is about people within a subculture who work with what they have as they embrace the charm of destruction. They love the process of grinding steel, burning rubber and showering sparks to fulfill their vision of the American dream; a dream of creating the indestructible car that is the last car running.
My photography of the demolition derby embodies the raucous spirit of what is proudly called “contemporary redneck culture.” I'm drawn to this community’s creative ingenuity, shown in the ways they give new life to old, all but abandoned, icons of the American dream, the automobile. The way cars are so deeply rooted in our memories and American identity is part of what I am reflecting on that through my photography. I also show the thrill of the journey and the ways the automobile serves as a symbolic promise of individual freedom.
I turned to photography as a way to face the onset of my own disability and the accompanying limited mobility. As a disabled photographer I am continually learning how to work with what I have, like the crews at the demolition derby. I have also learned how to play to my strengths, because I am attracted to people, which is a starting point for making these photographs.