New York based photographer, Joe Leavenworth was born in 1985 in Decatur, Georgia, and was promptly adopted and raised in New England. His birth Mother gave his adoptive parents a letter for Leavenworth, which he would choose not to read until his adulthood. The letter (printed in Native Son) sparked a desire in Leavenworth for a better understanding of his roots, manifesting into several trips to the southeastern United States between 2009 and 2012. The striking imagery produced during these annual expeditions became the series Native Son, which was published in book form this past winter by VUU collective.
Native Son at large conveys a seemingly discordant interplay between the sense of decay in both urban and rural landscapes and the resolute, prideful nature of its current inhabitants, whose portrayals evoke feelings of community, family, and beauty. Leavenworth constantly finds small details potentially loaded with subtext – an explosion of rot on the side of a building, a tattered american flag hanging from a clothesline, a set of unawarded trophies in a beaten-down storefront, a cracked open car window. As Leavenworth explains, “Inherently, approaching the south as an outsider, I am continually aware of the complexities in creating an accurate, ‘real’ impression, because essentially these photographs represent impressions. They are my impressions, true to my experience, and collectively, they begin to create a portrait of a search. I am seeking something humble and pure. Native Son is about discovery.”
Native Son can be purchased through VUU’s online shop here .