For a number of years in the early/mid 2000's I drove a 52-mile commute to my medical practice in a small city in central Kentucky. I departed my suburban home, traveled a busy stretch of interstate highway to my job, and reversed the trip at day's end. The semi-rural landscape was lush and sparsely populated, yet marked by the presence of people I mostly didn't see. I viewed their homes and playgrounds; their businesses and industrial sites; their rural hamlets and suburban shopping malls. Isolated within my car, apart from these unseen people, I already felt I was The Other.
I drove, thinking of the day to come, or the day gone by, steering autonomically while my mind sifted what my eyes fed it. The siren calls of color, light, geometry, and form beckoned me to stop to shoot at once, or to return later. I responded superficially to the many lovely scenes I encountered; who doesn't like a "pretty" picture? But I also sensed the incongruities and oddities, and the manicured faux-perfection that betrays the human impulse to impose order around oneself. However I approached, I photographed as an interloper in places where I rarely felt fully at home. This tension, between visual attraction and emotional discomfort, is why I returned time and again, camera on the seat beside me.
The vague anxiety this tension provoked prodded me to shoot quickly, and return to the familiar confines of the car. But "quick" isn't so easy when wielding an eight-pound manual camera, or reloading rolls of film, each capable of only a handful of images. I shot nearly all of this work on medium-format color-negative film for its ability to render complex, multi-dimensional information on a large plane of whatever emulsion best suits the day's light. But the cameras' physical heft and cumbersome operation were also soothing impediments to the task at hand. I had to stop, compose, focus, and shoot; and though I didn't linger, neither could I easily heed the voice that screams, "you don't belong here", and hasten back to the comfort of the commuter's hermetically-sealed isolation.
52 Miles| Project Statement | Michael Sebastian