The Texas series


The idea began when Chris Brown from Refueled magazine and I discussed what to do for a follow-up to the special limited edition instant film issue we published last year 

We were going to do a Volume 2 featuring a selection of my b&w photographs from over the years but decided to do a more traditional, stand-alone book release, and with new material (his RF Book Co and my Film Photographic will be co-publishing) 

And Texas came to mind 

I'd photographed here off and on over the years, but not much with color film. Not much color film in general, really. Not since the early-2000s 

While the photographs in this series aren't dissimilar to many of my other photos from the road over the years, I felt I wanted this series to be in color, but a kind of color that would serve the cinematic references I'd had in mind for the series

Using expired color films and my old Kodak Ektar lens would prove to be the perfect combination for achieving that certain look and feel I was going for (the photograph above, from Krum, Texas, was made with 17-year-expired Kodak Pro 100 film - amazing result)

I used a handful of different Kodak films, all expired, all 4x5, and my old Graflex Speed Graphic view camera 

25 days on the road, off and on, and roughly 5000 miles - January through April of 2017 

Some thoughts on the series, and my photographic approach in general, in regards to this particular America that I've been drawn to for so long now:

I am immensely and forever attracted to these forgotten things, and simple scenes, and empty spaces, the quiet, and what remains, and to the best of my ability I try and capture them from a distance, always conscious of the importance of staying out of the way. Conscious of (hopefully) favorable or interesting angles, yes, but the thing itself is what I'm interested in. I'm simply an objective viewer. And the photographs seem to work to the degree that I maintain a genuine appreciation for what I'm capturing

To the people at the center of what I'm seeing as an outsider, this is just the way it is. But to me, perhaps because I am an outsider, but mostly because fundamentally there's a deep curiosity and an inherent drive to provide some sort of photographic commentary about this landscape, these American scenes, I see it differently. I enjoy wondering about how things are the way they are. And the odd things, too; the things that stand out and contribute to and encourage this curiosity. And many of these scenes feel like conscious installations, which I find fascinating; the neatly kept bush growing around the street light; was the shape of the greenery intentional; does the caretaker of that unit think of it as something creative, or aesthetic in any way, or is it just many copies now of a first attempt that seemed to do just fine and so the tradition has been kept?* Many curiosities and questions come to mind from this vantage point. And the placement of the white Dodge truck in the alley is, to me, like a scene from a movie, the truck placed there at just the right angle and in just the right setting, and with just the right lighting so as to evoke a certain feeling or as a reference to something.* And even though I know it's just simply where the driver happened to park the truck, I buy into the story. Because I want to. I see scenes like these and it reminds me of something. Something cinematic. I never know specifically what at the time but it feels special to me, and important in some way. But to the insiders, the everyday viewers of such scenes, it's just a plain view

Thinking with photography in mind allows us to view things differently. And to perhaps place a value on what others may deem unimportant, or uneventful; everyday views. I find these bits and pieces of America the necessary balancers. It's a wonderful feeling to explore and to be open to the environments around us, no matter what or where they may be. To quote the great photographer Henry Wessel: 'The process of photographing is a pleasure, eyes open, receptive, sensing, and at some point, connecting. It's thrilling to be outside your mind, your eyes far ahead of your thoughts'

More to come, and the book will be available early next year year 

*viewable HERE

Jason LeeComment