Tyler is a twenty-seven-year-old Kansas City native, born in Missouri, and raised on the Kansas side of the border. Ever since he was young, he loved to explore, make forts etc. in the many creeks and backyards of his old neighborhoods. This type of childhood spawned an imagination that would help lead to his love of art and picture making. Growing up in a traditional Midwestern suburb can be stifling, but at an early age he was showered with support from his family to pursue any and all creative ventures. Tyler’s youth saw many road trips; going west to Lawrence to visit grandparents, driving out to the Flint Hills in the heart of Kansas to see what was left of the great tall grass plains. Family trips out to Chicago and St. Louis. Road trips were often, and a special kind of childhood adventure. After attending the University of Kansas, Tyler moved to New York and began working in the American Paintings Department at Christie’s Auction House. He became inundated with all the art that New York has to offer at its various institutions, and at Christie’s the paintings of artists like Wyeth and Hopper were quite literally at his fingertips. Tyler now works as a freelance photographer’s assistant for a handful of different photographer’s in the city. Tyler continues to pursue his own work and hopes to make steps towards a masters degree in the coming years.
Men of Men
Men of Men is about man’s corrosive connection to the past; how we are tied to the history of the land and intertwined with it; how we continue to struggle in the same lands, on the same ground as those who came before us. We come up from the mud of the land and drag the sins of the past out with us. The small Northern Delaware River communities (Easton, PA and north) where these photographs were made are some of the oldest in the United States. However, due to economic and industrial change, the region’s population has been in decline for many years. As in much of rural America, industrial work has been disappearing and jobs have become scarcer. There is richness to the culture that presides here, a trueness to them, something deeply rooted in the souls of the past. A thread tied to the ghost of an older America.
After moving to New York City, I began taking road trips with my girlfriend, exploring the Catskills in the north and going often to visit her father in Philadelphia. I began exploring for myself the boundary between New Jersey and Pennsylvania, following the river North into New York State. I became enamored by the very “American-ness” of the small towns nestled on the Delaware River. Being from the Midwest, I found the ancient nature of these old Eastern towns exotic and unknown, but still familiar. My goal was to make work about these old towns back East in the same way people had been photographing the American West for years. I wanted to show the American landscape and its poetic decline through the lens of one of the oldest regions I had ever explored.
Centuries ago, the Lenni-Lenape tribes (known as the Delaware Indians, Lenni-Lenape directly translates to “Men of Men”) had a vast and thriving empire in the regions along the river, but were forced out due to European settlers and western expansion. I find a great irony in this: we are now the ones that have begun to fade from the land, not because of conquest, but because of economic and cultural change. There is a violent cyclical nature to our history—how can we learn from our missteps? With the river as my guide, I used the landscape as a backdrop to try and find out what was happening in the rural American towns along the river.
There was a passage from William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying that I used as a sort of reference point for the project. It invokes in me strong feelings about the ideas surrounding the work:
“Life was created in the valleys.
It blew up onto the hills on the old terrors, the old lusts, the old despairs.
That’s why you must walk up the hills so you can ride down.”
To view more of Tyler Roste’s work please visit his website.