Arthur Drooker: Pie Town Revisited
Photographer Arthur Drooker has a long photographic legacy and like all good photographers, he continues to challenge himself. He has just released a new book, Pie Town Revisited, published by the University of New Mexico Press. Inspired by the photographs FSA photographer Russell Lee, made in a remote New Mexico community during the Great Depression, Arthur began to not only explore new body of work but also a new direction in his photography. He continually made visits to Pie Town to document what became of it in the seventy years since Lee visited there. Pie Town Revisited is a portrait of America as it was and as it aspires to be. Arthur has two book signings coming up: on December 5th at A Hundred Years, 810 South Santa Fe Ave. in Los Angeles, from 4-6PM and on December 12th at The Image Flow, 401 Miller Ave., Suite A, Mill Valley, CA, from 5-7PM.
Arthur has been an exhibited and published photographer since 1980. His work has been included in several solo and group shows and in the collections of the Petersen Automotive Museum and the Music Center in Los Angeles.
A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in American Civilization, Arthur imbues his photography with a sense of history and appreciation for culture.
His first book, American Ruins (Merrell), the first photographic survey of historic ruins throughout the United States, was featured on CBS Sunday Morning. Arthur’s second book, Lost Worlds: Ruins of the Americas (ACC), was published in November 2011.
Since I was first exposed to Depression-era photography as a teenager, I desired to revisit a place that had been documented by a Farm Security Administration photographer and make a visual record of what had become of it. This project would combine my loves of American history, photography and travel. But of all the places FSA photographers visited, where to go?
When I saw color pictures that Russell Lee, an FSA photographer, had made of homesteaders living like 19th century pioneers in Pie Town, New Mexico, I had my destination. Lee didn’t just photograph the homesteaders. He saw them. With his camera he declared, “You matter.”
While working in Pie Town, I imagined myself as an FSA photographer documenting what had become of the “pioneer spirit” that so impressed Lee. What emerged evokes what William Faulkner wrote, “The past is not dead. It’s not even past.”
In making these photographs, I made a connection with a community. At the beginning of this project its members were strangers. Through an accumulation of small acts that spoke volumes, they became friends. Their collective appreciation of the work made me hope that just like Russell Lee, I had declared with my camera, “You matter.”
Roy Stryker, the head of the FSA photo unit, said that the goal of FSA photography was to “introduce America to Americans.” In doing so, the pictures would help unite citizens despite their differences. That goal resonates in our polarized times. In this spirit, I introduce to you a few Americans and the place they call home, Pie Town. — Arthur Drooker
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