LENSCRATCH Student Prize Honorable Mention Winner: Jordan Gale
Congratulations to Jordan Gale, a student at the University of Iowa, for his Honorable Mention in the 2017 Lenscratch Student Awards. We were drawn to Jordan’s ability to be a participant observer storyteller, taking on the difficult task of looking at his past, his family and community with insight, compassion, and as a form of therapy. Poverty and drug abuse affect whole swaths of the population and it’s an important subject to confront and consider, no matter how personal. Most importantly, it was Jordan’s ability to take a hard look at his growing up and accept and appreciate it for all it’s foibles and failings, that made this project so powerful.
Jordan Gale is an Iowa-based photographer and undergraduate student at The University of Iowa pursuing his BFA in photography. Gale was born and raised in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. After receiving his Associate of Arts degree from Kirkwood Community College, he moved to Iowa City to study photography in 2014 at The University of Iowa. Since then he has worked with local news outlets and exhibited intimate personal projects documenting the lives of those closest to himself still living in Cedar Rapids and neighboring communities. His work often highlights scenes of poverty, drug abuse, and the current state of his hometown. Often Jordan’s photos aim to acknowledge a modern working class struggle in Midwest America, as well as the temporality of humanity in the spaces people inhabit. His photographs have been awarded by The Iowa Press Association, The Associated Collegiate Press, and published through The Daily Iowan, The League for Innovation in Community Colleges, and Fools Magazine
It is What it Is
“I am going to die doing this,” my mother says to me as a teenager. Years later, the words stab my mind frequently, like a needle or an alarm clock. What does a temporary escape offer for those searching for purpose? Those fleeting moments don’t negate the consequences, and circumstances that follow our past decisions. They don’t pay the past due rent or grant immunity from trauma. And they definitely don’t transport you, free of charge, from a life you’ve grown to resent.
I was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; the only child to a single mother who since before I was born has struggled with a combination of drug abuse and poverty. When I was nine, our house was raided by the police on the suspicion that drugs were sold there. After this incident we were forced to move. Following our relocation, my mother attempted to overcome her addiction to methamphetamine. For several months she slept, forcing me to partially raise myself. I always assured my mother that her addiction was never a source of shame or resentment. This promise became more and more a lie as time went on.
My mother never quit, and in high school I acquired my own dependencies to drugs as a way to escape. I now accept that I was angry, and wanted to be anywhere besides in my own reality. I resented my mother’s addiction, and my own place in the world.
It Is What It Is acts as a form of therapy. A visual diary where I confront the people and decisions of my past. I am now comfortable living without drug use in order to cope with my place in this world. As I look back, I embrace the fact that my decisions were necessary in order to have the hindsight I do today. I can now see my actions perpetuated a life I was scared of. I was lucky. For many this cycle is never broken. Stagnancy and fear create a mold. Some friends and family close to my heart blissfully lay in this mold forever. By photographing the people and scenes most familiar to me, I’ve began to accept that this is an aspect of my world. These photographs for me often stir up more questions than they do answers. One fact I’ve learned that I hold close is that, I’m in no way content at the moment. But, I am proud of where I’ve come from.
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