Coming and Going and Staying by Lara Shipley
This town is tucked deep into the Sonoran Desert. It is a convergence point of three nations. A place of passage, from one life to the hope of another. An open-pit void, the scene of an extraction. It is a retirement community, where the desert sun warms old bones. A hometown, safe but dull. There are people who live there, busy in the creation of their imagined selves. Through the camera I imagine them as well.
The land we call home is as much a container for our identity as our own bodies. It is also just as malleable, and fraught with contradictions. I have been traveling to this town for the past year and a half. The more time I spend there, the more I am struck by its nebulous form. It is defined by the people who live there, and each of them define it differently. One resident, in a startling act of self awareness, wrote a play about the town, in which two aliens posing as anthropologists traveled there during varied periods of time. With every trip they found a different group of people; Spanish conquistadors, Rough Rider industrialists, Tohono O’odham and border patrol, reinventing this one little patch of out-of-the-way desert for themselves.
Today I do the same. I take portraits of locals who appear to me particularly aware of their identity and landscapes and interiors that are as mysterious as they are distinctive. Weaving these parts together I form my own town; a place that draws from the memories of my childhood and mixes them with my imagined and actual experience of the West. The result is a place that can only be visited through the work, but is just as real as the place you call home.
Lara Shipley is a Tempe, AZ based photographer.
To view more of Lara's work, please visit her website.