Truth and Mirrors

 Jalynne and Lynn (scholars in Sustainable Agriculture), 2016 (from     Uprooted   )    © Kristine Heykants 2018

Jalynne and Lynn (scholars in Sustainable Agriculture), 2016 (from Uprooted  © Kristine Heykants 2018

These days, we talk a lot about the slippery nature of truth. Even Facebook has started revealing sources of articles posted on its news feed. During my days as a student in photojournalism, ideals like truth and objectivity were drilled down every day. Yet I was never satisfied with the J-School definition of truth. In recent years, social justice movements like Black Lives Matter have forced consumers of mainstream media to recognize that truth has everything to do with who is telling the story, as well as the intended audience.

Recently I have been reading about German photographer August Sander and his connection to the artists of the New Objectivity movement that took place during the Weimar Republic era (1919-1933). A couple of his quotes stuck in my mind:

  1. So allow me to be honest and tell the truth about our age and its people.
  2. A portrait is your mirror. It's you.

Quotes can be deceiving– we don't know the circumstances under which they were uttered. I'm going out on a limb anyway to reflect on the paradoxical nature of these two statements, and how they apply to my photography practice.

For me, a portrait is a balancing act between my perception of the subject, my own experiences and prejudices, and the subject his/herself. It's like a dance with me playing the role of the lead. Sitters may or may not agree to follow my direction with the picture, they may have suggestions of their own. I am aware of my power as a photographer and consider time with my subjects as a gift. Above all, I hope my portraits reflect back humanity and dignity, as Sanders' do.

What's in the Name?

 Light snow cover, 2014 (from     Uprooted   )    © Kristine Heykants 2017

Light snow cover, 2014 (from Uprooted  © Kristine Heykants 2017

As I seek to expand the reach of Uprooted: A Search for Meaning and Connection in Rural Iowa, I presented last month at the American Anthropological Association annual meeting in Washington DC. I gained valuable feedback allowing me to refine the project's focus. I received a few questions about the title, which I share here:

Q: Who or what are you referring to as Uprooted?

A: Central to the project is the idea of sense of place, and how it forms the basis for identity. On a personal level, Uprooted refers to being pulled from a place or a set of values. It also refers to agriculture and plants, and the vanishing way of life I knew as a child in Belmond.

Q: Can you say more about connection in the context of Uprooted?

A: In the simplest sense, I am searching for connection with a place where I lost touch. In a more holistic sense, it's about people relating to one another, both within the town, and between the town and the country at large. I get the feeling there is a disconnect between rural and urban life, and I want to explore that a little more.

Personal Expression in Documentary Photography

 Minnesota Bodybuilding competition - Hinckley, 1996 (from     A  merican Beauty )    © Kristine Heykants 2017

Minnesota Bodybuilding competition - Hinckley, 1996 (from American Beauty  © Kristine Heykants 2017

Not long ago, I happened upon the book Arbus Friedlander Winogrand: New Documents, 1967 in my favorite museum gift shop. Recently published on the 50th anniversary of the MoMA exhibition of the same name, it was curated by longtime proponent of art photography John Szarkowski. Prior to the 1960s, he contended, documentary photography focused on social issues. For him, the featured photographers presented a new direction in photography. "Their aim has been not to reform life, but to know it," he said.

For a couple of generations now, Diane Arbus and Gary Winogrand have been influential to artists who look to the peculiarities of everyday life for inspiration. With my pictures, I aim to share the quirks of my experience with my audience.

Nature, Balance and the Detective Novel

 Development near Clear Lake, 2015 (from   Uprooted )    © Kristine Heykants 2017

Development near Clear Lake, 2015 (from Uprooted  © Kristine Heykants 2017

I am a self-confessed junkie of murder mystery novels. Agatha Christie, Sue Grafton, Sarah Paretsky, Donna Leon and so many others have written stories that cater to my preferred literary functions: a) social commentary, and b) escapism .

My current binge-read is Tony Hillerman, the acclaimed raconteur of the Navajo Way philosophy. Analytical and traditional perspectives are played through characters Lt. Joe Leaphorn and Sgt. Jim Chee, officers in the Navajo Tribal Police. At stake is the importance of being in balance with nature, with all beings having their particular role to play.

Nature is a revitalizing remedy to the energy demands of our modern lifestyles. This post is dedicated to the love of nature and the balance it provides.