Tell us a bit about your new series Grays The Mountain Sends.
It’s a project I made in small towns and mining regions in the American West, mostly in the Rocky Mountains. I met people and took pictures of them and their surroundings.
Growing up in Texas, were you surrounded by oil culture? Did that create your view of mining, or influence it?
I was raised outside Houston, which has a huge energy sector, however, I was surrounded by oil culture less than one would expect; no one in my family was involved in drilling, refining, or oil affiliated lines of work, etc. But when I was a boy, my dad worked in construction. I think the way he talked about work and about guys he spent time with on the job helped socialize me and shaped my view of the working class, and that’s what mining towns are made of. Mining towns interest me because a lot of them have fallen far from their glory years, yet continue to endure.
What role does your degree in history play in your work and process?
These photos have a whole lot to do with history, but honestly my educational background didn’t play a large role, and I didn’t do much research as I went about taking photos. Conceptualizing the project didn’t take more than a cursory understanding of the West’s history and Manifest Destiny, etc. So the specific reading and coursework I did during my undergrad degree relates in no direct manner. And when it comes to specific places and towns, I know very little, which might be irresponsible, but more than that it’s liberating. I always talk about the poet Richard Hugo and his influence on me. He said: “Knowing can be a limiting thing. If the population of a town is nineteen but the poem needs the sound seventeen, seventeen is easier to say if you don’t know the population.”