Artist's statement

Taking Pause is a collaborative portrait project that asks people to reflect on what in their lives feels most essential.  With what do we identify and connect most deeply? What truly matters to us, and why?  Participants are documented in their home or place of their choosing with two distinct portraits.  One of themselves, their physical selves, and an accompanying portrait of their reflective selves through what they have chosen to share.   Each participant is also asked to tell the story behind their selection, both orally, during the making of their portraits, and verbally, as a brief text for a book. 

The goal of this project is not to judge but to observe and to ask the same simple yet thought provoking question — what is irreplaceable to you — of the widest possible range of participants, regardless of socioeconomic situation. The intent is to document the differences and commonalities of these choices while engaging the spectrum of American diversity and disconnections, both political and economic: from the financially secure to the evicted to those who have lost everything in recent natural disasters.

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Project description

Taking Pause is a documentary portrait project that combines photographs and stories in a visual and verbal narrative that explores both the complexities and simplicities of what we value.  It is a collaborative project because those who participate are more than passing subjects.  In addition to sharing something of deep personal resonance, each participant also tells the story behind what they chose and engages others to take part in the project. 

The sharing of stories is central to the making of these dual portraits as each participant when photographed is asked to tell something about what they chose to share.  Their story-telling influences them and is what the physical portrait seeks to document.  Subsequently, my awareness of the personal story informs the making of their reflective portrait.  The story provides an informed sensitivity to both portraits and, in a sense, each portrait is a documented story.  

Work on this series began within my local community in February 2018 with a core group of people from varying backgrounds.  The plan is to focus exclusively on this project starting in the fall of 2018 and to expand its community and network exponentially by traveling across the United States, returning to the East Coast by late spring 2019.   

To advance and attain diversity in the series, each person who participates is asked to take some ownership in the project and, with thought and consideration, to lay forward the collaboration by engaging one or two others to help organically involve a spectrum of participants across the geographical regions and socioeconomic classes of the United States. The travel route will naturally evolve and be largely determined by the location of the subsequent contributors. The expected travel for this fieldwork will last for approximately five months,  two months driving the southerly route towards California, one month on the West Coast and then two months returning east via the northerly route.

The backbone to the second phase of this project is the road trip. The road trip as a means to an end that also seeks to explore, question and connect with this country we call the United States. Whereas the history of the road trip is rich with meaningful role models, mine is largely inspired by de Tocqueville, Dorothea Lange and Robert Frank.   While Frank’s The Americans, as the title implies, was an outsider’s observations on a foreign land,  this project aspires for direct communication, interaction, and collaboration. America in 2018 is a far cry from that which Frank observed in the fifties or Lange soul wrenchingly documented in the thirties.  

Upon completion of the fieldwork in the spring of 2019, the immediate goal is to create a book of approximately 75-100 portrait pairs and texts.  Initial discussions with Princeton Architectural Press indicate a strong level of interest.  Another desired manifestation for this project would be to create an exhibition that travels, and thus gives back, to the various local communities along the the project’s route.