Do we ever stop to think about the places we pass through on our way to somewhere else? Probably not much, but Jason Brown does. His poignant and powerful photographs capture the fleeting, transitional nature of the built and natural environments that are found along the way, but that are most often passed over on our journey to elsewhere.
Between us there is a space untravelled; between the urban and rural lives we live, between tradition and progress, as well as between us and them. But between us there are also relationships, shared experiences and memories and between us there is always the invitation to connect with others and try to see things from a different perspective. Through intimate investigation Jason Brown attempts to traverse some of these spaces and to make some of these connections. Driving down that nondescript road with scarce knowledge of what he may find, Brown carefully documents with his camera his journeys through the rarely traveled Canadian countryside reflecting the lives that are lived there. In portraits, still-lifes and landscapes he trains his lens on the unassuming, lifting it up before our eyes for us to regard without judgment and with a fresh gaze. Documenting the wheels of progress as they race past or trickle to a halt as the case may be, he captures the quiet nuance of those who have stayed behind.
Drawing on two bodies of work, Brown investigates these spaces and places, documenting the small towns and communities that can be found just beyond our main highway corridors. The series Alone Together depicts the changes that have taken place in the last decade along what was once Hwy 69 linking Sudbury to Toronto. Having grown up in Elliot Lake but now living in Toronto, Brown has made the journey numerous times. He has observed the many changes along this route, now called Hwy 400, as the twinning of that 410 km stretch of road nears completion. The images presented here explore the natural, economic, social and cultural effects the highway expansion has had upon the region.
In the series You Seem to be Where I Belong, Brown considers the small town as his subject. Having grown up in a small town himself, this work reflects on what he calls “the ideology of the landscape” that can be found in smaller communities. This way of thinking about our built environment does not necessarily suggest the need for ordered, well-designed spaces built for productivity and efficiency but rather mirrors a more organic approach to building that is responding to the more immediate needs found within our natural environment and our personal circumstance. The artist’s affection for this rural aesthetic is evident in his honest and unadorned portraits of the communities he visits.
Brown’s photography paints a multi-layered portrait of rural Canada. He says that with his work he attempts to “…. uncover the ways in which our relationships to our environments define who we are both individually, and as a society.”
Chai Duncan – curator
Between Us is part of our NEXT series of exhibitions generously sponspored by Valley Environmental Services Inc.
image: Robert and Jake, Still River, ON, 2011, digital photograph