Dan Farnum was born and raised in the blue-collar town of Saginaw, Michigan. His photographs address the American experience, landscape, and culture and have been showcased nationally in several exhibitions and galleries in San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. Dan received his MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and BFA from the University of Michigan. He is currently an Assistant Professor at The University of Tulsa.
He is the recipient of notable awards such as Best in Show in the Midwest Contemporary exhibition from Natasha Egan and Karen Irvine at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, an award from Ann Pallesen at Photo Center Northwest in Seattle, two prizes from the Paul Sack Architectural Photography Contest at the San Francisco Art Institute, and the Juror’s Selection Award given by Christopher Rauschenberg in an exhibition at the Center for Fine Art Photography. For his work included in the exhibition Landscape Interrupted at the Coconino Center for the Arts, Dan received an award from William Jenkins, curator of the New Topographic exhibition at the International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman House.
Dan’s prints have previously been exhibited at the Marin Museum of Contemporary Art, Black Box Gallery in Portland, Root Division in San Francisco, and at the Center for Modern Psychoanalytic Studies in NYC. Dan’s photographs have also been featured in multiple solo exhibitions in venues such as the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, Newspace Center for Photography in Portland, University of Wisconsin, and at Alibi Fine Art in Chicago.
Young Blood: Growing Up in Michigan’s Auto Towns
These photographs investigate children, teenagers, and young adults raised amidst a backdrop of economic decomposition in the neighborhoods of Michigan’s auto towns. Adolescence and early adulthood are characterized by both fragile uncertainty and exciting potential. I see these same characteristics reflected in the rebuilding process of the region.
I am particularly interested in the cusps between these age ranges since they are pivotal moments in the formation of individual identity. I frequently encounter the subjects in my pictures in the streets or in empty lots, and they are commonly without adult supervision regardless of their age. I am interested in how these specific locations shape the aspirations and attitude of their residents. Of particular interest to me is how this under-populated yet developed industrial landscape promotes a type of freedom due to its lack of order.
I grew up skateboarding in many of the actual locations in my photographs. My personal connection to these places allows me to easily converse with my subjects. I am able to capture both the immediacy of the encounter and the unique characteristics that define the people in my images. The choices that individuals make in regards to their own self-image in my photographs indicate clues about their life experiences within the environment where they grew up. I also include landscape and architectural photographs in my project that help provide further contextual information regarding the lives of the people in these neighborhoods.
The circumstances in Detroit are a large-scale representation of these socioeconomic issues, but there was also a significant ripple effect throughout the state. My project takes a regional look at the process of becoming an adult in economically challenged communities that incorporates places like Saginaw, Flint, Lansing, Grand Rapids, and Ypsilanti, as well as the Detroit metropolitan area. All of these cities were part of the auto industry at some point and have dealt with parallel challenges.
To view more of Dan’s photography, please visit his website.