Comprised of photographs taken in South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, and Iowa, The American West: A Paradox engages with the legend and contradiction of the "American West." These states, incorporated into the United States of America as the Territory of Louisiana, play a significant part not only in the fabled American West (a fable that has been both dismantled and scrutinized in recent decades) but also assist in constructing a present-day political narrative. The current national political climate and the growing divisiveness in the country represent a broad American paradox that parallels that of the American West. My photo series is an investigation into these dualities.
The images that compose this series include locations of significant mining accidents (in many cases the worst in their respective state’s history); towns whose growth accelerated rapidly, only to face abandonment due to the routing of the railroad; sites that continue to mark a troubled relationship between past and present; and residents of McCrossan Boy’s Ranch, a home for at risk boys between the age of 9-20 that uses the “cowboy culture” of classic Western folklore as a model for an alternative way forward in the present.
For nearly two centuries, the concept of the American West has been influential in constructing a national identity. Although the western half of the United States was the site for many significant and nation shaping events, legend has elevated geography beyond its use solely as setting. The West is so well-defined both in our American vernacular and psyche that it has the illusion of existing as an historical figure, even as a character from the favored and heroic national narrative. This project looks at the American West as both the setting and lead role in this complex and contradictory western fable.