The first spot for the feature belongs to Ryan Mason from Connecticut. He will be sharing his project “Roots“ with us, a project about his home town. So let's jump right into it:
“'Roots' is a project that centers on the concept of origin. Mine traces back to rural New Jersey where I lived in a minuscule town of approximately 100 people from birth up until age 10. My parents divorced when I was seven, prompting my mother to eventually move me and my brother to North Carolina. Although I lived in the south for almost two decades I would visit my home town at least once a year, sometimes spending the summer with my father working for his graphic design company. No matter how long I lived in the south, I always looked forward to my trips back up to New Jersey. There was just something different about my home town. Perhaps it was just pure nostalgia, but I always got the feeling I was stepping back into my childhood every time I returned. The older I became the longer I went between visits and the more my memories of this place faded.
In the decade of my being a photographer I have struggled at times to find subject matter that I felt passionate about. Often this resulted in me spending endless hours exploring unfamiliar streets, avenues, and towns. I strayed from telling my own story as I felt it to be too specific and perhaps too personal to be relatable, but I soon realized that many of my friends could relate to retracing their roots. On the eve of my thirtieth birthday I began undoubtedly my most personal project yet: I set out to document my first home.
The images in this series depict many seemingly banal scenes, yet each hold great personal meaning to me. What to some is a simple tree stump to me was a favorite seat in which to watch local baseball games from my backyard. A renovated church was actually a library filled with books that fed my imagination. Abandoned rail road tracks were a magical path for my grandfather and I to explore.
The value of this project, for me, has been to never forget my roots. While much in my life has changed since departing rural New Jersey, it is this place which formed the foundation of who I have become. This project has concurrently helped me to find greater significance in the things that now seem so ordinary and to value the present as before long it will be nothing but the distant past.“
While the theme of home has been captured and approached by a variety of photographers before, including for example Daido Moriyama and Jacob Aue Sobol, they all commonly display a certain melancholy. How time is affecting places and most importantly people. And no matter how badly we wanted to, in the end we can never go back to that certain time and experience things in the same way as they once were. Sometimes, it feels like a tragedy that we want to go back and relive certain moments or change decision we made and therefore ultimately our path in life. But in the end, don’t all of these memories, people and places make us who we really are today as an individual? Don’t they make us all unique in our very own way? We tend to idealize the past, forget about most of the bad things that happened and therefore draw the wrong assumption that everything once was much better.
Ryan has managed to especially capture this exact feeling of melancholy, but at the same time his pictures don’t evoke the same resentment and bitterness about the past, as what can be associated to other projects on this topic. They seem to perfectly portray how things have changed and what effects those changes have had. Ultimately and decisively what memories you personally connect to them. How good things once were and that everything in life seems to have its time. We grow up in a certain place, but we will most likely move away from it at a certain point in our life. And I guess that this is the nature of it all, and not necessarily and sad or bitter thing, maybe we need and should accept it. Maybe we need to realize that everything has a certain time in ones life. And I think this is what Ryan has managed to capture through his images and project and why it instantly grabbed me. While it displays the melancholy, they also seem strangely positive about what once has been and how in comparison things are now. While he doesn’t show many people, the places tell all you need to know, maybe in a more intrusive and in a more subliminal way. Some places have no meaning, no recognition by others. But they may be meaningful to you because of what you associate with a certain place, a certain house or backyard. All of these places evoke a different feeling down deep in all of us because of what once has happened and what ultimately will never return.
You can submit your work now too! If you have created a project / series you would like to share with us, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with a selection of the most representative images as well as a short description of the work itself.