Culture - NOMINEE: John-David Richardson
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In Family Bible, I am looking at the historical construction of the term “white trash”. By creating a narrative using a combination of portraiture, still life, and landscapes I confront my own family history. Patriarchal and misogynistic undertones provided a false idea of structure and stability that controlled our family dynamic through oppression, prescribed gender roles, and familial expectations. Through images I reference the despair that consumes the lower class, and how upward mobility can often seem impossible.
As I grow older, the memories of my youth become harder to accept. I have become aware of how a child’s mind is unable to grasp the complexities of trauma. I find myself piecing together memories to somehow make right of what was wrong. Violence, neglect, and distrust provide the foundation for those memories. I’m attempting to understand the actions of my family and the events of my past by bringing them back to the surface. Making this work has given me a deep sense of disloyalty to my family and my people. Where I come from, we don’t discuss what it means to be white trash, for fear that the acknowledgement will lead to a shame we can’t discard.
In my photographs, the intimacy and gaze of the subject confirms the photographers’ status as an insider. Markings on material and skin speak to the violence against family members and neglect of the home, while the tender touch of a young mother holding her child alludes to the possibility of something better that may never come.
Like the history passed down with the family Bible, the fear that the traits that plagued my family would be handed down to me has created persistent anxiety and resentment between my family and myself.
John-David Richardson (b.1990) is currently a 3rd year MFA candidate in Studio Art and Instructor of Record at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and holds a BFA in Photography from Northern Kentucky University. He is a recipient of the Edgren Tuition Fellowship, the Hixon-Lied Fellowship, and was awarded the 2016 SPE Student Award for Innovations in Imaging, through the Society for Photographic Education. His work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally, and investigates the societal construction of subcultures, specifically within lower class America.