Six Nights a Year

     The rural communities of the Midwest are, in the words of many, “a great place to raise a family.” But for the family being raised the greatness often wears off as puberty sets in; no longer children, the youth from these households are eager to play adult games.

     Teen clubs don’t exist in the country, and the oncoming generation of players is too young to gain access to bars. Then, for six or seven nights each summer, away from the watchful eyes of their parents, the county fair comes…

     While the early years of this project were based largely upon this premise, as the work matured I became increasingly aware of the greater picture—that of transition and change within the social landscape of rural America.

     Resultant of this shift, the search for one’s own sexual identity—or the willing means through whom it might be expressed—became an undercurrent, and these rural teenagers’ desire to find their place within the ever-encroaching urban landscape became the more prominent, anthropological theme.

     The recent onslaught of electronic media has been the emasculation of small-town America. While rural towns and villages still exist, they’re small now only in population, not mindset or naiveté. And the influx of urbanites into the countryside, an ongoing trend first noted in the 1970 census, has only helped to expedite this assimilation. With that, I began photographing exclusively at rural fairs, rarely working in towns with more than a few thousand people or even near metropolitan areas.

     The rural youth of these communities, through the ways in which they interrelate, dress, groom, and posture themselves, vividly display the traits of a world with which their only experience has been through their televisions, laptops, and iPhones.

     As Robert Adams so aptly posited in the titling of his landmark book, What We Bought: The New World, our current expansion of social and intellectual homogeny will ultimately be best explained in terms of “What We Lost.” The rural countryside most American generations so recently called home has become the spillway of urban America, and while this transcendence of popular and economic culture may be a dream for some, its coming to pass heralds the close of an era than cannot be defined in mere terms of linear time.

     Within these emerging, social ecotones, we find a generation of youth engaged in the simultaneous quest for uniqueness and homogeny, pursuing their days as they quietly celebrate and secretly fear. The goal of Six Nights, has always been to acknowledge these restrained emotions, to delve into the psychological grays, differentiating between apathy and disinterest, hope and optimism.

     And while the subjects I photograph confess these uncertainties, these repressed emotions that ache within, it’s their willful contributions that have allowed this body to become a discerning view into what lies behind the guise of mediocrity in our youth on the edge of adulthood.