It Can Be This Way Always by David Johnson
Since 2008, I have been photographically documenting the Kerrville Folk Festival in central Texas, an annual 18-day event that has been in existence since 1972. This body of work captures the festival-goers, the surrounding Texas Hill Country and Quiet Valley Ranch (host site of the festival), and its transitory yet longstanding community. This documentary project observes the American traveling troubadour and the unique camaraderie and society that develop when such individuals come together. Many of the images of individuals and their spaces depict a subversion of the conformity and complications of our modern-day existence and a simultaneous entering into another world that possesses its own unspoken codes of conduct and hierarchy. It Can Be This Way Always continues my conceptual interests within a very different environment. This environment lacks certain modern physical infrastructure elements and population permanence, allowing an examination of the individual and communal identity in a perpetually fluctuating space.
It Can Be This Way Always focuses on a vernacular of time, the 21st-century event with 20th-century aesthetics. These images are in direct reference and allude to times and photographs made when folk music gained national notoriety, for example, Woody Guthrie’s Dust Bowl Ballads and the Farm Security Administration photographs during the Great Depression. The Kerrville Folk Festival is a non-profit entity, which promotes an authentic experience; in contrast to, some more significant corporate sponsored contemporary festivals. These large-format images depict a distinctive subculture that emerges within an isolated 50-acre ranch and lasts for only one month each summer. My photographic images uncover a unique organization of space that reflects both the desire for independent identity and the idealized sense of togetherness. “It can be this way always”is a saying that festival-goers say often; optimistic at best but never fully realized as the people, their relationships, the ecology, themed campsites, and entitlements all change. While the landscape and night images provide the atmosphere of this durational event, the portraits offer a typology of performers and volunteer individuals who tirelessly work so the festival ensues every year.
David Johnson lives and works in Iowa City, Iowa.
To view more of David’s work, please visit his website.