Most creatives have a million ideas sitting on back-burners in their minds, hoping to one day revisit them. I have what amounts to a series of different photo projects that have organically developed through a lifetime of solitary rambling. One of them is a pothole documentary of sorts.
It’s always been important to me to make space for aimless walking, alone, without any destination, agenda, or schedule. It allows me time to quietly daydream, discover, connect to, and absorb the sensory material of my surroundings, paying attention to the sounds, smells, textures, colors, and visual stimuli in the environment. There are always things that repeatedly call my attention and, over months or even years, I end up accumulating a lot of photographs on different themes.
Between 2017 and 2018, potholes organically emerged as one of those themes. Particularly potholes within walking distance of the “half-double” Pennsylvania home I lived in with my teenaged son at that time. During the pothole era, I was working full-time, in graduate school full time and, in a strategically bold move to reclaim and radically transform my life as my son came of age, I was also preparing to relocate us out of the country, and permanently out of Pennsylvania. Part of that process involved selling, donating, or getting rid of everything we owned except two suitcases each of stuff to take with us and one plastic tote each of sentimental stuff for storage. We left for good in the summer of 2018.
And I am left with potholes. I have known I wanted to do something with these since then. I have not had the time to explore it but my excitement about this series has not lessened and is always marinating somewhere in me. When I’m collecting images like these, it’s initially because I find them visually arresting. It is only over time that the layers of context and meaning start presenting themselves. I do like context and meaning to be available, but not necessary, obvious, or forced.
I love these pothole images in themselves, as beautiful nonrepresentational compositions. But they are roads. Abstracted roads. My roads. Broken roads. They are exposed wounds filled with dirt and grit, patched scars in various stages of repair and decay. They are puzzle pieces. They are maps. They are aerial landscapes representing both a specific geographic place (potholes are fundamental to the genus loci of Pennsylvania!) and an emotional season of my life, both of which carry massive archetypal meaning and are places I hope to never return. So. Layers.
There is something about being healed enough or far enough away from something before we are ready to examine it more thoroughly, hopefully turning it into something meaningful and maybe beautiful. I feel that coming with these.