I have long loved trailers as objects. They are often alone in a landscape, ironic metal comments. From the side they are billboard-like and wonderfully two-dimensional. Their facades are of subtly beautiful tones and textures, a black and white photographer’s dream. The squares and rectangles of windows within the squares and rectangles of trailers, I trapped within the square camera format. The repetition of form causes people to look closely at each trailer for variation. Portrait-like, individual personalities are revealed.
The spark for the series included not only their visual charm but also the emotional impact of trailers as shelter. As a child, traveling across California, I was drawn, through my car window, to the otherness of the small, roadside communities or the dislocation of lone trailers. Their fascination for me now includes the seeming license expressed in the treatment of the exteriors and yards, a result, I think, of the diminutive and transient nature of trailers.
The images refer obliquely to culture. But trailers are so versatile and useful that the quality of that culture cannot easily be corralled, certainly not within a silly stereotype like “trailer trash” or even a category like poverty. Yes, they offer ubiquitous, inexpensive shelter, but they also serve those seeking simplicity, “freedom”, or a get-away, and even those just needing storage. For the most part a mobile home is just that, a home.
I have become deeply attached to the images as I have collected them. They are stand-ins for the gamut of spiritual states from valor to depression to depravity, conditions not the province of any given social class or group.
About Nan Brown –
Nan Brown picked up a first camera, a Leica with a fixed lens, in 1970. In San Francisco she worked nights, but it was her daytime photo classes at the Art Institiute and UC Extension that excited her. Though mostly self-instructed, her teachers have included Judy Dater, Oliver Gagliani, Ansel Adams, Mark Citret, and John Sexton. Brown’s future husband built her a first darkroom in 1971. There she started learning the fine art silver printing that distinguishes her work to this day. Brown’s 1975 move to the northern Sierra brought her to fertile creative ground. She thrived in the art backwaters of the mountains. She photographed the forest as sacred and the detritus of rural existence as archaeology. Brown owned a portrait studio for 15 years, taught photography at Feather River College for 10 years, and exhibited extensively until 1998. Following a lengthy illness, Brown has exhibited recently in solo and group shows throughout the United States. Work from her major portfolios, Intimations and Trailers Collected, is finding frequent inclusion in publications like David Bram’s Fraction Magazine and The Photo Review Competition 2012, chosen by Robert Mann. Brown’s typology, Trailers Collected, was among ten winners of Boston’s Photographic Resource Center competition, Exposure 2012, an exhibit juried by Alison Nordstrom of George Eastman House. Brown’s work is represented in the collections of Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and Southeast Museum of Photography.
To see more of Nan’s fabulous Trailers Collected series log onto her website.