‘Sleep Creek’ is a landscape filled with trauma and beauty. It’s a place where animals are only seen when they’re being hunted and humans balance between an unapologetic existence and an abyss of secrecy. These images manipulate a landscape that is simultaneously autobiographical, documentary, and fictional: a weaving of myth and symbol in order to be confronted with the experiential. Following the rituals of those within it, ‘Sleep Creek’ is an obsession between the subject and the photographer — a compulsion to reveal its shrouded Nature.”
Dylan and Paul have been working together since 2011 but they only started making ‘Sleep Creek’ in 2016, when they lived together in a cold house on Peaks Island, a small island only accessible by boat off of the coast of Maine. They gave themselves the boundary of the island as a perimeter to make photographs. It began as a traditional interest in place—a documentary of a piece of land and stories of its inhabitants, but as the work began to expand they let their thoughts cross-pollinate with those outside the island, namely their families and the lands that we were raised on.
“There’s something deeply personal about many of these images, but we hope that there is something more universal in the intensity of the characters and their interactions with the land.”
— Paul Guilmoth & Dylan Hausthor
‘Sleep Creek’ is entirely shot in New England, for the reason that this was the only region that the artists knew. Even though the place holds a strong regional identity, Paul and Dylan didn’t want the work to represent or speak to a regional identity but to use the region as a backdrop for more unhindered ideas of story, myth, and character.
That said, they do believe there is something specifically inspiring about the simultaneous history and youth of this part of America. In their own words: “Colonialism is apparent everywhere, every square foot of woods has been tainted by something human, and every pond is always covered with algae. There is anonymity in all of their characters, akin to the faceless identity of small-town New England”.
Even though ‘Sleep Creek’ blurs the borders of reality and fiction, the intention of the artists was never to confuse, but rather to build a place from the ground up, leaving little remnants of the place they initially set out to document. Their impulse to contort “place” had to do with the inevitable ways the exterior world affects one’s interior landscape and experience of it. There are no beginnings, middles, or ends in their experiences of the world, nor a hard line between the experienced and the directed.
After the loss of her mother the artist experiences the interruption of her own timeline on one end while having to fulfill her own role as a mother to the other end. In that end, motherhood in Dede’s universe is not connected only to warmth or joy but to cold, ice surfaces that need to stand the pressure of an overheated world.
‘Mayflies’ dramatises the creative process of mourning. Through multiple chirographic mutations of the imagery, the experience of loss in intertwined layers is represented throughout the work. Faces and bodies lingering in the shadows between conscious and subconscious in an attempt to let themselves be inert as Marcel Proust advices:
“When you are used to this horrible thing that they will forever be cast into the past, then you will gently feel her revive, returning to take her place, her entire place, beside you. At the present time, this is not yet possible. Let yourself be inert, wait till the incomprehensible power... that has broken you restores you a little, I say a little, for henceforth you will always keep something broken about you. Tell yourself this, too, for it is a kind of pleasure to know that you will never love less, that you will never be consoled, that you will constantly remember more and more.”
I have this desire to sum up my life in the form of a story.
My parents killed themselves, one after the other, in the winter of 1998.
My mother’s depression led her to take her own life, and my father followed her nine days later. Having suddenly a closer relationship with death at just 21 years of age, I decided to write down the things I saw around me, as they were, and to capture in photographs the emotions I would only be able to feel then and there.
I was alone in the house we had all lived in as a family. I had almost completely lost sight of the point in living. But even so, I kept on living. Though my parents weren’t there, I had the many paintings my father left me and the family pictures my mother loved taking. They spoke to me and consoled me.
Happiness is “living alongside the people you love”.
Surrounded and engulfed in the love of my parents, I was taught the meaning of happiness. Now, after being blessed with a new family and a child of my own, I am surprised to find myself having conversations with my parents who still live on inside me. The look I give my child overlaps with the look my parents once wrapped me in.It is then I sense my parents are still here with me and I get a feeling of happiness, like I am being watched over.
If you are able to share your love for someone, perhaps you never really die.
In order to continue living with the people I love, I want to share with my family what I have learned from my parents. I would like to also share it with all of you in this book. - Junpei Ueda Special edition with a signed print on Hahnemuhle PhotoRag Baryta 315 gsm, 20 x 30 cm. Choice of sea or trees image.
A selection of photobooks by American photographers, alongside a number of titles focusing on the United States. Image: Mark Steinmetz - South East