A little while back Darwin Magazine interview me about Forever Wild for their new website. Here’s a peak at the full interview.
HR: To begin with, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions on your on going project ‘Forever Wild’. Firstly, how did you come across this location and saw the potential for it to stand out as a strong photographic exploration of the concepts of the wild and man?
KF: My pleasure, Harry. I was born and raised in the Adirondack Park. A majority of my youth was spent out in nature wandering around in the vast wilderness that surrounded me. However, as with most youth, I think I took a lot it for granted. It wasn’t until I lived outside of the park for many years that I started to reflect on the sheer uniqueness of the place I called home. As the largest park (6.1 million acres) in the continental US, it is not your traditional park, like Yosemite. More than half of the park is privately owned and the other half is public Forest Preserve. There is no entrance fee and people live throughout the park. It was founded in 1892, and by 1894 the New York Constitution was amended to state that all publicly owned land would be “forever kept as wild forest land.” The Adirondacks is a fascinating case study of a society and an environment growing along side each other, as opposed to one taking precedence over the other – which is often the case in our culture
HR: Has this subject matter been of an interest to you for a while? From the photographs, it’s evident that you have enjoyed making these pictures.
KF: As cliché as it sounds, I have wanted to make work about my home for some time now. And after about a ten-year hiatus from the Park it felt like the right time to return. So, I rented myself a small place in an old cure cottage in the heart of the Park and began working on this book project. It turned out to be one was of the best decisions I have ever made.
HR: The images within your edit feel fresh and inviting. Was it challenging trying to create something that people would feel was still engaging and interesting, even though it’s a subject matter that has long been discussed within photography?
KF: Thank you. In this day and age its hard not to create work that has been a least somewhat discussed before. I try not to look at the dense history of the subject matter as a challenge, but rather think of it more as a boon. So many have worked or are working in this genre that more and more people are familiar with the ideas and aesthetic choices that form the expected visual language of the subject matter. This allows me to take a lot more liberties within the work than I otherwise might be able to. I often let my research be my guide. In fact, the artists, poets, and scholars who came before me (American transcendentalists, Hudson River School, early survey photographers) directly inform a lot of the aesthetic choices I make. They are responsible for many of the early visualizations of the park during a time when the cultural fascination with ‘escaping’ to nature was just being formed. The Adirondacks was America’s first real wilderness and helped define our cultural idea of the wild.
HR: The concept of ‘escape’ and being in the wild is an extremely popular subject matter for young photographers, a subject matter that has been viewed through the lens of the camera since the beginning of the medium itself. What is it you feel, that draws people to take on this relationship between man and nature?
KF: I’m not sure I can accurately speak for anyone else. But it seems that for many the idyllic concept of ‘escaping to the wild’ is often accompanied by those Thoreausian sensations of discovery, hope, or solace. We all have a desire to escape, thus it is a universal sensation that is easily capitalized on. I tend to find that the real interest begins when the reality of actually living with the wild starts to set in. The wild for me is a lot like the myth of the great American West –more of an idea than an actual place.
HR: Was there any photographers which you drew inspiration upon during the early stages of this project?
KF: In the early stages I was spending a lot of time with Seneca Ray Stoddard, a little known photographer who devoted his life to documenting and cataloging the Adirondacks. He was also a writer/cartographer and published some of the first topographical surveys, guidebooks, and even tourist maps of the Park in the late 1800’s.
HR: The community in this place look close knit, how was it interacting with these subjects?
KF: I’d like to say that having been born in the park gave me some kind of golden ticket but that is hardly the case. A majority of the portraits I make happen while I am exploring the outlying areas of the park. In these chance meetings, I find a lot of my subjects to be fairly open to interaction, however still protected. I think working with my large format camera gives me a small advantage with a lot of my subjects. The inherent slowness of working in this medium allows more time for forging deeper connections.
HR: One portrait in particular stands out within this project, a young male squinting into the camera by his car on the roadside. Can you tell us more about the subject; the location must feel fairly suffocating and slow for younger people longing for a busy social life.
KF: I actually stumbled upon him while looking for a place in the woods that a lot of teenagers go to supplement their social life – weekend bonfire parties are a large part of the youth culture here in the park. For a lot of the youth, the wilderness becomes the only place for them to escape their small communities. I came across Nicholas on Bigelow Road, a narrow one-lane dirt road (if you can call it a road) that connects two small towns through a patch of protected forest. Bigelow is one of the many secret back road, deep wood, spots known to be a gathering place for youth in the area. We only had a few moments together and then he was gone. He was very guarded and seemed unwilling to divulge the secrets of the area. Even though it was state land, I felt like a trespasser. And I was. This was his private spot, his home away from home, his place to escape.
HR: As the work is ongoing, in this moment in time, how do you feel about the work? Are there any ideas to perhaps turn this project into a book or exhibit the images?
KF: The final product, although not fully realized yet, will be a book. More than likely including a few essays and perhaps some unpublished poetry written in 1800’s. Kodak has generously sponsored all my film needs for the project but I am currently researching funding options for the book. I have begun to exhibit some of the pieces in group shows here and there, but in an idealistic world I would love to put together a selection of images for a solo show to accompany the book launch. For now though, I just feel pretty lucky to be doing something I love, in a place that I love.
HR: Are there any other photographic projects you have on the horizon? Or is ‘Forever wild’ your main focus?
KF: There are always a few projects bouncing around in my head. But for now, my main focus is Forever Wild.