My Secret South
This is a collection of images gathered throughout years of exploration in my home state, Virginia. As a child I remember adamantly stating that I was not Southern, as it was my belief that the South did not begin until you had reached Georgia. In order to maintain this belief I had to disregard Richmond’s status as the former ‘Capital of the Confederacy’ and ignore my grandmother’s insistence in calling me “Katie Belle."
To me, the South represented a shameful period of American History that I did not wish to be associated with; it represented the dislocation of families and cultures due to the presumptuousness of Western civilization. It was not until my teenage years that I began to realize the beauty of my rich and troubled heritage. Many afternoons were spent driving down dirt roads with “no trespassing” signs searching for the remnants of forgotten homes. The intricate tapestries of these strangers’ lives fascinated me. I found a strange comfort in my familiarity with the old houses and their belongings. The smell of dry wood and old paint, the light through aged and distorted glass, soft green grass of a large yard, and the frame of an empty barn; the landscape of my childhood.
I began to love these old homes and their fragments of lives once lived. Naturally, this love came with the fear of loss, and I began to see the temporary nature of these properties. As years passed I would return to find the homes gone; torn down by man and nature; segmented into lots for strip-malls and housing developments. It was almost out of necessity that I began to photograph my explorations, collecting memories of a time passed and almost gone.
For me, these images provide a memory of the beautiful mystery contained in Virginia’s soft hills; a memory of the people who tended the land and loved their homes. At this point in time I find myself living in Finland, one of the Northern-most countries in the world; a country uniform in its cold white landscapes and modern architecture, founded on the principles of equality. In this safe and fair land I find myself longing for the diversity of my home and its healing wounds. I am able to see just how far we’ve come and to appreciate the beauty of our struggle.