Joe Leavenworth was born in Decatur, Georgia 1985, raised in Woodbury, Connecticut and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2007. Joe’s first monograph, Native Son, was recently published in a first edition of 75, which sold out in less than two weeks. The second edition is now available and he will have his first solo exhibition of this work in October at Aviary in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. Joe lives and works in New York City.
Native Son is an evolving collection of photographs made traveling the American Southeast, predominately Georgia. The inspiration for these adventures South comes directly from my own estranged relationship to the South. I was born in Decatur, Georgia 1985, adopted at birth and raised in Woodbury, Connecticut. As I matured, the itch to experience this region I felt connected to, albeit abstractly, intensified, and I was further propelled after reading my biological mother’s nine page handwritten letter left for me at birth. In October of 2009, I made my first independent drive south to Georgia.
The photographs of Native Son are a result of insatiable curiosity with the way things are and openness to the chance encounter. Taking risks and pushing myself at times beyond comfort invigorates the artistic and intellectual process. As best as possible, I approach each opportunity to make photographs with the desire to walk away with something gained.
My goal is for the viewer to witness a personal narrative unfolding and something larger and identifiable; a view of our contemporary American landscape. This region continues to evolve while simultaneously reveals our past; importantly, one which our generation has not experienced, but has learned of and to an extent felt the ramifications, as history furthers along. There is discovery, inquisition, and education from this process of putting oneself out there. I believe everyone can relate to this existential desire.
The South is beautiful, strange and as popular stereotype prevails, mysterious and complex. I seek to better understand people and place through direct engagement, as well as demystify and question my own intentions to relate to and identify with my biological mother’s landscape.
To view more of Joseph’s work please visit his website.