East Liverpool, Ohio, USA
This project is about the town of East Liverpool Ohio. The population of East Liverpool is approximately twenty four thousand. It is situated forty-five miles west of Pittsburgh on the Ohio River on the borders of Pennsylvania and West Virginia. I began photographing there in 2004. I have returned to the town as often as I can afford. This project is about community, the mind set of a place, cancer because of hazardous waste that echoes other communities like Flint Michigan, drug addiction, struggling to leave the past, connection, hope, and the complex human condition. It’s also about the most beautiful human being I have ever known in my life, that is my wife Julie who is from East Liverpool. It’s also about what is the best of the United States.
East Liverpool, Ohio, USA.
Expanded written statement
I drove to Ohio from New York City in 2003. I stayed in the town of East Liverpool, Ohio for three days. I spoke with people, drove around, and made photographs. I met Mary Jane Foster who began telling me almost everything about the town and what was going on there. It was the beginning of an intriguing, humorous, sad, and delightful conversation that lasted many years before she died of cancer. Many think the high number of cancer deaths in East Liverpool is due to the toxic waste in the area from the Shippingport nuclear plant just two miles from East Liverpool.
In 2004 I was in East Liverpool when a young woman named Tiffany Faulk was murdered by her boyfriend who beat her to death with a baseball bat when he was “ cracked out, “ on a mix of drugs. I was not looking for violence, murder, or drugs, but, it was a simple fact. Drugs are there and this murder happened. This is the reality of the place. As a documentary Artist I felt the responsibility to get to work. I respectfully approached Tiffany Faulks family and they allowed me to photograph at her funeral. The photographs that I made that day were the beginning of this project.
This project is about community, struggle, individuals. It’s about watching a friend die of cancer like many others in the community because of hazardous waste in th area. It’s about the horrible ease of getting drugs like heroin, and watching it destroy people and communities. It’s also about trying to see the best in people and hoping they will come through. It’s about connection, friendships, race, lack of opportunity. It’s about the human condition in all of its complexity. It’s about the difficulty in judging or moralizing people, and what those boundaries are. It’s about my personal relationship with a country, a place and it’s people. It’s about really listening to what people are saying. It’s about going further than your average news pic. It’s about exploring the subconscious of a place. It’s about our zeitgeist. It’s about what is really there.
I have not made it to East Liverpool every year since 2004. I have worked to afford to put myself through grad school, the Photography Video and Related Media MFA program at SVA. In 2015 I began shooting video and collecting audio, and collecting photographs from around East Liverpool. I intend to make this personal project a multi media film, a book, and an exhibition.