Inside of America’s Households – Documentary Photography

John, San Carlos, California.
Mother, daughter, and father rush out the door to work and school on a busy weekday morning.

 

Fine Art Photographer Beth Yarnelle Edwards is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this  documentary photography.  These images are from her book “Suburban Dreams“.  To see Beth’s portfolios click on any image.

 

Samantha, Redwood City, California. Father watches as wife and children play baseball in the driveway and street.

Samantha, Redwood City, California.
Father watches as wife and children play baseball in the driveway and street.

 

Artist Statement

Suburban Dreams

Sometimes I’m so interested in what’s going on with people in their homes that I want to know what’s in the closet or under the bed.  In my photographs I aspire to tell the viewer not just about what can be seen, but also about things that are hidden and locked away.

 

Susan, San Carlos, California. This woman cleans smudges off her glass dining table. She finds this particular task soothing and relaxing.

Susan, San Carlos, California.
This woman cleans smudges off her glass dining table. She finds this particular task soothing and relaxing.

 

In 1997 I began photographing in the suburbs of Silicon Valley, where I had lived for many years.  These suburbs are a physical embodiment of the American Dream as it has often been represented—a place where natural beauty intersects with opportunities in high-tech industry, an increasingly diverse yet predominately affluent population, and access to nearby cultural centers.

 

Lilian and Grace, Belmont, California. This lesbian couple has two adopted Chinese daughters, Lilian and Grace. Since the older girl is learning to read at school, their mothers have put signs around the house labeling everything. Reading books together before bed is a nightly treat.

Lilian and Grace, Belmont, California.
This lesbian couple has two adopted Chinese daughters, Lilian and Grace. Since the older girl is learning to read at school, their mothers have put signs around the house labeling everything. Reading books together before bed is a nightly treat.

 

Although I started my project with friends and neighbors, I quickly found myself photographing households several degrees removed.  These were strangers introduced to me by people I had already photographed.  Eventually the majority of my subjects were people I had never met before.

 

Anniqua, Redwood City, California. An immigrant family enjoys a quiet evening (without electronics) in their living room. The mother reads, the father and oldest son play chess, and the younger son reads a children's Koran.

Anniqua, Redwood City, California.
An immigrant family enjoys a quiet evening (without electronics) in their living room. The mother reads, the father and oldest son play chess, and the younger son reads a children’s Koran.

 

My intention is not to critique but to observe.  Since I consider myself to be a stalker of the real, I have devised rules to keep my photographs as truthful as possible.  Though the events pictured here are staged, they are based on information obtained from interviews with my subjects and always with their knowledge and consent.  I don’t pose people but rather set up improvisations and then wait for an authentic expression, posture, or interaction to appear.

 

James, Hayward, California. Busy working couple dotes on baby daughter on a Saturday morning.

James, Hayward, California.
Busy working couple dotes on baby daughter on a Saturday morning.

 

I seek out intersections of the mythic and mundane.  As I attempt to reveal some basic truth about my subjects, I’m attracted to the peculiar or surprising.  When I succeed, I’ve created an image that is both specific and universal.

 

Don, San Carlos, California. This busy executive has a special dispensation from the company he works for. Once a week, he can arrive at work at noon. On those days, he gets up before dawn and drives to Santa Cruz to surf at first light.

Don, San Carlos, California.
This busy executive has a special dispensation from the company he works for. Once a week, he can arrive at work at noon. On those days, he gets up before dawn and drives to Santa Cruz to surf at first light.

 

Jenny, Redwood City, California. Wife and mother of three teaches at a local community college, does the bookkeeping for her husband's auto garage, and bakes her own bread.

Jenny, Redwood City, California.
Wife and mother of three teaches at a local community college, does the bookkeeping for her husband’s auto garage, and bakes her own bread.

 

Kim, San Carlos, California.This housewife and mother of two uses yoga to tame the chaos of daily life.

Kim, San Carlos, California.
This housewife and mother of two uses yoga to tame the chaos of daily life.

 

Harriette, Burlingame, California. This suburban mother and church volunteer sports piercings and tattoos.

Harriette, Burlingame, California.
This suburban mother and church volunteer sports piercings and tattoos.

 

I am now in the process of visiting, interviewing, and rephotographing people who first appeared in Suburban Dreams fifteen to eighteen years ago.

 

SuburbanDreamsCover for Fraction

 

See also:

Roles & Identities

California 2

By Beth Yarnelle Edwards

 


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