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Jacob Koestler

Artist Statement


Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a once booming industrial center of steel production and coal mining, is now a skeleton with hollowed hills, decreasing population and the subsequent crumbling neighborhoods. I was born in Johnstown during this decline, which remains the driving factor in my practice as an artist. Because it is impossible to understand the contemporary post-industrial landscape without knowing of its past, I use my camera to frame scenes that are filled with layers of history. For me, this way of looking and thinking starts with walking, a slow means of probing the landscape that enables equal parts wanderlust and critical observation. In addition to the man-made obstacles that inhabit my photos and videos, I also embrace analog photography’s inherent flaws like light leaks and multiple exposure as well as natural forces like fog to obscure the images, enforcing the empirical relationship to the scene; that is to say that a specific time and place is better understood by being there and learning through feeling and physical experience in the moment. This personal connection between artist and place disrupts the assumptions and stereotypes often associated with locales like Appalachia and the Rust Belt. These images are created all over the world while traveling or even just meandering throughout the year. Then it is at home, back in the studio where similarities are gleaned and narratives are revealed. Again, it is personal connection to each landscape that ties everything together, not geographic location. Photographs from all over and multiple years come together as an edit that feels like a walk through a single, fictional post-industrial landscape. Through this practice, I explore and reveal the gray areas of the collective conscience.

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