Buy, Sell, Trade. Charlotte, NC, 2011.
Installed for the juried show Americana
Curated by Darren Ching
Colorado Photographic Arts Center
22 Sept - 4 Nov 2017
The image "Buy, Sell, Trade" comes from an ongoing project documenting North Tryon Street in Charlotte. It was selected for inclusion in Americana by NYC-based photographer and curator Darren Ching. Americana, according to Ching, is commonly associated with nostalgia, optimism, and a rose-tinted view of the past. But what does Americana look like in 2017, especially in today’s turbulent political times?"
North Tryon stretches 12 miles from 'Uptown' to the far outskirts of the city, roughly paralleling a band of freight train lines, with all of the associated material culture of depots, repair yards, storage buildings, and terminals. It is also a commercial strip, dotted with pawn shops, liquor stores, rent-to-own operations, used car lots, fast food joints, warehouses, and vacant properties. As it winds northwest from the city's center, Tryon Street passes through a series of working class and poor communities, comprised mostly of African-American and Latino families, as well as Vietnamese and Laotian immigrants. As curator Darren Ching observes, "for many Americans, the economy has been challenging and harsh in recent decades, and this economic desperation is suggested through blunt signage in Joseph Heathcott’s "Buy, Sell, Trade."
Like most of my projects, this one explores the intersection between documentary and aesthetic impulses, and in doing so it is neither real nor beautiful, but something else. That "something else" changes from time to time, but might best be described as the trace of a world, a sense of a place, a condition of living. While I work within the tradition of architectural and documentary photography, my upbringing in the industrial Midwest has profoundly shaped how I approach this work, disposing me toward the ordinary, the quotidian, and the banal. Thus, I deploy photography not to lionize iconic or spectacular places, but to explore the mundane, often bland environments that surround us from day to day. And I use photography not to construct fixed narratives of individuals or places, but instead to uncover contingent relationships between people and landscapes across a wide variety of locations.