Interviewing Travis Shaffer, The Photographer Probing The Pitfalls Of American Optimism

Interviewing Travis Shaffer, The Photographer Probing The Pitfalls Of American Optimism

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In the passage that accompanies the series, you speak of a town plagued by change. This is interesting, can you explain a little further?

I don’t wish to frame the work around the specifics of this event alone, but on September 11, 2001, a United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in Somerset County. The line from my statement, “We thought we lived in a place that was almost untouchable,” is a quote that was the published response of a superintendent in the wake of the crash. This response, taken from its original context, positions the residents of Somerset County as the ‘we’. There is a subtle slippage between the understanding that tragedy happens, versus the perception that it targets you.

This is a place with a significant adversarial relationship to the outside. Based on my experiences, residents have a sense that they have been taking blows from every direction for 50 years. It is very un-American to reduce this historic event which we are implored to ‘Never Forget’ as a tragedy that is simply ‘one-of-many’.

There is a quiet sense of unease that permeates the images in your work. Why was it important to portray this?

The ‘quiet sense of unease’ that you mention is, for me, a product of a kind of attention that distills incongruity. I’d rather let these images be a whisper than a shout. I am sick of all of the shouting.


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