When the F3 tornado barreled white-trash-drunk through Jefferson City, Missouri on May 22, 2019 it presented photographers and artists alike with both a subject and a dilemma. For photographers, it was a question of getting out, getting light and getting position to chronicle the three-mile-long strip of damaged homes and businesses. Accuracy, sharpness, and framing proper to capture the impact of the storm were paramount. As an artist, my concern first was how to create art from images of tornado damaged homes, then, should art be created from images of tornado damaged homes.
I did not rush to the scene as a good photographer (and I include drone videographers as their work is equally important) should do – I waited a week to stay out of the way of first responders and for streets to be cleared. By then some of the rubble had been cleared away, but most of the damage was still evident. I also did not want to seem insensitive; any desire to create art in the moment would have paled in comparison to the stress and worry of those directly impacted. (I should quickly note that, for all its bluster and property damage, the tornado caused no fatalities and only minor injuries, thus greatly reducing the awkwardness of pointing the camera at the affected neighborhoods).
The question of should dissipated as other artists I consulted encouraged me to continue my work (I recognize the morality of it may linger). The question of how answered itself in a thought as abrupt as the storm itself:
Infrared. Create the works in infrared.
I will spend the next few weeks posting these works here, roughly three posts a week if anyone has been counting. I’ve also collected 15 of these works into an artbook that will be available for viewing or purchase at Capital Arts or through this website. I may actually do a second volume as well.
The purpose of art is to offer alternate visions of the world. That does not exclude it from reality.
All my life I have had to learn to do things differently. To see the world differently.