A new exhibit has opened in the Photographic Archives this month: HomeLands, by Robb Hill. The photographs are documents from a long-term project examining how a person’s identity is informed by the land on which they live and what happens when the connection is severed by alterations to that land.
Hill grew up just outside the town of Utica, Indiana. This area is now changing dramatically because of the I-265 extension but Hill’s project began before the construction. “HomeLands started as a documentary project, to record the land where I grew up before big machines erased it. I have been returning to Indiana several times a year for the last ten years to hike the trails and fields I played in as a kid. With each footstep I looked for signs of the world I once knew so well.”
The panoramic, black and white, landscape photographs of HomeLands are a meditation on the idea of home. Hill posits that by shaping the land people create their sense of self and asks, “When the bond between land and people is broken what happens to identity?” The connections Hill photographs range from natural changes and decay to man-made alterations of the landscape he remembers. “I believe land makes people who they are. The relationship you have with the land you’re on sets the cornerstone of your being.”
More than simply nostalgia for Hill, HomeLands connects with viewers through rich images and icons, current and disappearing, of our region’s past and present.
HomeLands will be on display in the Photographic Archives Gallery, in Ekstrom Library, from March 12 through May 22. The gallery is open from 8am – 5pm, Monday – Friday.
For almost 25 years the University of Louisville Photographic Archives has chosen one graduating high school student from the Greater Louisville area to receive the Stern J. Bramson Award for Photographic Excellence. This year we had entries from 12 talented photographers, the most we have seen in a long time. The caliber of work was high and the decision was difficult. After much debate we got ourselves together and chose the winner of the $1000 prize. Unfortunately, we cannot let you know who it is until April 4th, when the participants will be notified themselves.
If you are interested in finding out who is the winning photographer, check the University of Louisville Photographic Archives Facebook page on April 4th. We’ll be announcing the photographer’s name sometime in the afternoon. In the meantime, here is a small selection from just half of the portfolios we received:
You can learn about Stern Bramson here and view his work by visiting the Photographic Archives at Ekstrom Library.
The only problem being the Imaging Manager in the Photographic Archives is the urge to know every photograph and fine print in our vault. That’s about 2 million images and, I guess, a bit impossible. Even if I could look through every image, I cannot look without wondering. It’s easy to spend a good thirty minutes observing one photo and asking what may be going on in the scene:
Is that man in the white suit looking straight at the camera? Where is the photographer standing? Why did he take a photo of this scene? What’s in that caged truck? What is going on with that traffic pattern?! How common was it to still be using a horse and cart? What is being constructed? How many of those buildings are still here? Arg, so many questions! But that last question, that’s one I can easily determine. When I run across an interesting photograph of a building or space in Louisville, I search Google maps, pick out a camera, go on a little adventure, and have some Photoshop fun:
This exercise in photography, research, and navigation works to expand my knowledge of our collection and its relevance to Louisville’s history. And it answers a few of those burning questions along the way!