Rebecca Nolan: The States Project: Georgia
I met Rebecca Nolan in 2009 when I began my education at the Savannah College of Art and Design. I thought she didn’t like me for about two solid years, but it turns out that Rebecca doesn’t just hand you her respect. You have to earn it. This is something that I strongly admire about her. These days there are too many people in the photo world that will tell you what you want to hear to feed your ego. Rebecca is not one of those. She will call you out, and she is not afraid to do so. She makes every photographer she works with stronger because of her attitude and appreciation for the medium. Now, six years later, I am no longer a student of hers but a co-worker and I think it is safe to say that I have gained her respect, and that is something I am very proud of. I am always fascinated when I have the chance to look at her new photographs and hear the stories that go along with them. She is a great storyteller both visually and verbally. Rebecca’s passion for the American landscape and the southern landscape, in particular, has been a motivating factor for my work over the last few years. I recently asked her a few questions about her work as she was traveling across the southern portion of the country making new images. She sent me the answers via text message because she couldn’t find WIFI, classic American road trip style.
Rebecca Nolan is a fine art photographer whose work has been exhibited internationally. She has taught at SCAD since 2001 and is the photography graduate student coordinator and adviser. She has taught at the University of Kentucky, Washington University in St. Louis, Webster University, and several community colleges in the St. Louis area. Rebecca is a member of the Society for Photographic Education, Atlanta Photography Group, Houston Center for Photography and College Arts Association and has served as a guest juror for numerous exhibitions.
These photographs are about place, culture, society, environment, and how these concepts influence us as individuals. I have been documenting the transformation of the American roadside since 1999. Going from here to there, I travel the back roads, frontage roads, business routes, and older U.S. highways. By avoiding the expressway, I am able to explore visually a place as the locals might. There is the potential for insight into the community and its individuals who have shaped a region and created the character of a place. The environment is loaded with evidence from the past that is now layered with subtle indications about the future.
How would you describe your passion for the American landscape?
My passion for the American landscape comes from my attraction to the rural landscape. I am not particularly interested in the wild or mountainous landscape. This is from growing up in southern Wisconsin, the Midwest. The rural landscape is the landscape I understand. I find a seduction in the way the planted land has been sculpted.
How does the idea of travel play into your work?
I have always had the travel bug. My parents called me a gypsy. I find wandering the rural areas of America a fascinating study of the subtle regional character differences and similarities.
What draws you to a particular composition?
I tend to be attracted to the layers of information in a space. I do not typically focus on a particular subject or oddity within the landscape. I often find myself backing up to include more information within the landscape as opposed to isolating a subject.
Why the American South?
The American South because I moved there for a job. I was excited to find myself connecting with the vernacular landscape of the south in a similar way to the affinity I have for the Midwest.
What keeps you in Georgia?
My job and the Savannah community. Savannah is the only place I am willing to live in Georgia.
Five words that describe Georgia?
Sultry, sleepy, sticky, green (the color not pro-environment), and historic.
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