“Rural Transitions”

June 13, 2013 · 0 comments

Every now and again, an idea comes along that I just can’t get out of my head. When that happens, I know it’s time to act on it.

A few months ago, I came across a facebook post from a photographer I admire. It wasn’t anything spectactular; probably a throwaway post in his eyes, but it was a shot of the freezer in his office. In it were several boxes of Kodak film. As it turns out, that is his share of the last production run of Tmax 400 film in 8×10 format that Kodak ever produced, or likely ever will produce.

Think about that. The last production run.

Ever.

For 25 years, Chris Walker has been documenting changing demographics and social patterns in the rural Midwest through two long-term projects: “Civil Twilight”, which focuses on the changing rural landscape via the disappearance of large grain elevators that used to dominate the Midwest skyline, and “Six Nights A Year”, which documents coming-of-age youth at rural county fairs. Chris’ work is important, compelling and beautiful. And he captures it all with a large 8×10 View Camera that he customized with his father many years ago. The processes he uses to develop these images were said to be “impossible” by engineers at Kodak, until Chris proved them wrong by actually doing it.

And now, much like the way of life he’s been documenting for a quarter-century, Chris finds the tools of his own trade disappearing. He’s been unable to find film with the defining characteristics that make his work so distinctive, and may be forced to re-invent it either for a more “modern” approach, or simply walk away from it altogether. In conversation, he told me, “I have 70 exposures left”. My heart sank a little.

Actually, more than a little. I think it fell to my feet.

So I knew I had to tell his story. And since I couldn’t get the idea out of my head, I knew it had to be done, and done right.

Many years ago, I started my professional journey as a young college student that wanted to write. I thought the best way to go at that was with a degree in Journalism (after all, how else are you going to make a living writing?). When I discovered that I had no passion for composing obituaries or re-writing press releases, I took a right turn into Television Production. There, I found myself telling people’s stories through the eyes of a video camera lens. When my corporate life became unfulfilling to the point of being stifling, I struck out on my own, once again being confronted with people’s stories and documenting their lives via their weddings, dance recitals, and preserving their memories from old media (videotapes and film) to new (DVD).

The pull of telling those stories is strong. And that’s why I think Chris’ work is so compelling, and deserves a larger audience that a documentary like the one I’m producing can provide. His story is one of transitions, and certainly the current age has seen its share of transitions; sometimes they happen so rapidly we get the rug pulled out from under us before we even realize we were standing on it.

So I’m determined to not only tell Chris’ story, but to help him share his own journey and tell his own stories. To that end, I’ve adopted a very modern way of financing this documentary: through “crowdsourcing”. I’m asking for your help. I’m using the website “Indiegogo”, which puts this project in front of potential donors who see the value in what I’m trying to do here, and are willing to help finance it. If you’re interested, please visit the Indiegogo site, take a look at some of the incentives being offered, and see if this is right for you.

I’d love to have your help.

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