Since picking up a camera with a more purposeful gaze a few years ago, I find myself continually drawn to the back roads I meandered during the decade I lived rurally. What I frame is my own bittersweet interpretation of a rural existence I still yearn for. The years in my fieldstone farmhouse were tainted by infertility struggle, so while I might start to attempt to document the more dreamlike qualities of the pastoral, I find what I end up shooting instead is coloured by the grief I endured those years. The visual becomes this bittersweet mix: the pitiless aspect of weather juxtaposed against its jaw-dropping beauty; the peaceful solitudes and vast space of farm living versus its often heartbreaking isolation and, sometimes, suffocating loneliness. My current solo exhibit, Ruralgia, comprised of nine large format pieces at Death Valley’s Little Brother in Waterloo, is my unrequited love letter to that period of my life.

Coming to photography (and motherhood) a bit later in my life (my 40s), it took me a bit of time to own this medium. I now comfortably embrace the fact that what draws my own eye is not the blue sky or the perfect barn, but those elements that are truer (and, often, less than ideal). It’s how I’m approaching two current portrait projects I’ve begun. The smiling, Sears pose holds no interest for me. I prefer observing and recording more realistic moments as they unfold. My approach leans heavily towards documentary photojournalism as I now begin working with people. I aim to bring the connection I have felt to the landscape I’ve framed to the humans subjects I document. But I won’t reject a blue sky if clouds part to unveil that in the process! We are each trying, I think, to reach that greener pasture, some idyllic landscape within and without; a safe haven mentally, physically, spiritually. Every wink of my shutter is, for me, the jiggling arrow of my own personal compass on that quest.

@nancyfordephoto (Twitter, Instagram)

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