Lindley Warren: States Project: Iowa
I was first introduced to Lindley Warren through her curation of the web series Art of Iowa, and I’ve followed her work ever since. Her work of the beautiful magazine The Ones We Love is inspiring. I was glad to hear she was going to share a new body of work with us for the States Project, called The Meadows.
Lindley Warren (b. 1988) is a photographer based in Des Moines, IA. She is the founder and editor of The Ones We Love, The Photographic Dictionary, and Art of Iowa. Warren has curated international exhibitions and self-published books and magazines. She is currently working on a series focusing on her family titled The Meadows and Issue Three of The Ones We Love.
The Meadows is a trailer park my family lives in. However, this work isn’t about a trailer park; it is about a family or, more specifically, a little boy or, more truthfully, me.
It is difficult to explain this work without telling the story of my family, which is a complicated one. The central focus of this series is my six-year-old nephew, Johnthan, who became a bridge that reconnected me to my family: his dad (my only sibling) and my mom (my only living parent).
My brother has had three sons with three different women. Johnthan is the second son and the only son born out of wedlock. My brother is not very present in Johnthan’s life and this has always confused me, because my brother knows how damaging it is to grow up with an absent father. My mom, in contrast, has always been close to Johnthan. Even though she lived out of town for many years, she would spend time with him whenever she could. My mom moved back to Des Moines recently and eventually moved into the same trailer park my brother has resided in for a few years now. Fortunately, The Meadows is close to where I live. Over the last few months, not only was I able to spend time with my mom after years of distance, but I also finally grew closer to my sweet nephew.
The first time I went to visit my mom and nephew at The Meadows I felt an immediate sense of home and a strong desire to visually explore the tangled feelings I have towards my family. As I began to photograph Johnthan, I quickly realized he was able to understand the emotional landscape I was trying to create. My childhood emotions of sorrow, confusion and disappointment resurfaced and Johnthan was acting them out, both experiencing them himself and simultaneously somehow taking them from me. A therapeutic process was born where the sadness of my situation and his own could be looked at head on, allowing memories and fears to come to life and be tamed. When Johnthan poses for me, it feels as if we become one and are able to communicate on a new level. He is my collaborator and my muse. With him I am able to look at my family history from a new perspective, which allows old feelings to fall away and new ones to take their place.
Johnthan spends two days a week with me now and I miss him when he’s not around. I cannot change my childhood or the people that surround his, but I can attempt to make his life better. Summer is over, but my relationship with Johnthan has just begun.
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