Lara Shipley

Lara Shipley is from rural Missouri and currently lives in Lawrence, Kansas, where she teaches photography at the University of Kansas. She is an artist who primarily makes work about people and their relationships with the out-of-the-way places they call home. Lara’s photographs have been featured in publications such as The British Journal of Photography, Wenyishenghuozhoukan Magazine in China, The Atlantic Monthly, Mother Jones, GOOD, and Fraction. She was a photography producer for National Geographic and a freelance photographer in Washington D.C. She received a Masters of Fine Art in photography from Arizona State University. Today we take a look at her series titled, Coming, Going and Staying.

Victor in his room, 2011

Victor in his room, 2011

Descent, 2012

Descent, 2012

Coming, Going and Staying

The land we call home is as much a container for our identity as our own bodies. It is also just as malleable, and fraught with contradictions. Despite the turbulent nature of the borderlands, many towns within it maintain a strong sense of community. Ajo, Arizona was transformed into an outpost for the border conflict, staged in the hundreds of miles of surrounding uninhabited desert. Despite this activity, Ajo does not see itself as a border town. The more time I spend there, the more I am struck by its nebulous form. It is defined by the people who live there, and each of them define it differently. One resident wrote a play about the town, in which two aliens posing as anthropologists traveled there during varied periods of time. With every trip they found a different group of people; Spanish conquistadors, industrialists, the Tohono O’odham and border patrol, reinventing this one little patch of out-of-the-way desert for themselves.

Angel who might move, 2012

Angel who might move, 2012

Old Fire, 2013

Old fire, 2013

Migrant, 2011

Migrant, 2011

Spring break at Pizza Hut, 2011

Spring break at Pizza Hut, 2011

Monument, 2010

Monument, 2010

Klayla, twin of Terri, 2011

Klayla, twin of Terri, 2011

As an artist I too redefine this place. I weave portraits and landscapes together that are a mixture of staged and found scenes. The result is a place of my own invention—steeped in the reality of this unique region. I believe this process of reinvention mirrors that of the community and is similar to the way we all think of our hometowns—based in part in the reality of the landscape and in part on our memories, prejudices and desires.

Casey at the Chu Chu Club, 2012

Casey at the Chu Chu Club, 2012

July, 2012

July, 2012

Have you believed?, 2013

Have you believed?, 2013

Cheapest hotel before Mexico, 2012

Cheapest hotel before Mexico, 2012

Exodus, 2012

Exodus, 2012

Town of horses, 2012

Town of horses, 2012

To view more of Lara’s work, please visit her website.



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