Michael Matthew Woodlee: The States Project: Arizona
Michael Matthew Woodlee is not a transplant from elsewhere like the majority of people living in Arizona. He was born in Phoenix and has been photographing in and around the deserts of the Southwest since he was young. But it’s not his Arizona work that I want to share with you, rather his ongoing series, Yos-e-mite.
Three years ago, after meeting one of my closest friends Jay Vincent, Michael began photographing in the High Sierra camps of Yosemite National Park. Jay had been working in Yosemite for ten years by the time their paths crossed and noticing Michael’s interest in the outdoors, Jay convinced him that there are few places greater than the high camps in Yosemite. Not just for it’s incredible beauty but also for the spirited people that work and pass through the park.
The next summer Michael was off to see the high camps for himself and it was there that it seems he found something that he didn’t know he was missing. Almost immediately he developed a deep appreciation of Yosemite and the people who work there. Since then, he has spent the last three summers in Yosemite photographing the staff and volunteers that keep the camps maintained.
Recently, photographs from this series caught the eye of Jamie M. Allen Associate Curator, Department of Photography at the George Eastman Museum and she has included his work in their current exhibition Photography and America’s National Parks. His work has also been published in an Aperture book titled Picturing America’s National Parks.
For the last four summers I have called Yosemite National Park my home. During my time there, I have been able to observe and document the way the Park is able to transform the individuals of an unique social culture. This culture is composed of an eclectic mix of employees, summer camping residents, hikers, and climbers.
Within the park you will find a small community, these individuals are the people who identify themselves as Yos-e-mites. A Yos-e-mite chooses to live an unconventional lifestyle because they are deeply connected to the natural landscapes. I identify with this community because they prefer long periods in the wilderness over a life with easily accessible modern conveniences. Beyond simply maintaining the Park and keeping it safe for visitors, Yos-e-mites consider the Park their home.
Through my photographs, I have sought to show the effect of living in the park on Yos-e-mites. The landscape has changed them, there is a sense of belonging and transformation that is visible within their faces.
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Michael Matthew Woodlee: The States Project: ArizonaSeptember 11th, 2016
Serge J-F. Levy: The States Project: ArizonaSeptember 10th, 2016
James Hajicek and Carol Panaro-Smith: The States Project: ArizonaSeptember 9th, 2016
Ryan Parra: The States Project: ArizonaSeptember 8th, 2016
Emily Matyas: The States Project: ArizonaSeptember 7th, 2016