ANTONE DOLEZAL & LARA SHIPLEY | SYRACUSE NY, USA
Antone Dolezal and Lara Shipley are originally from the Ozark region of the Midwestern United States. They are collaborators on Devil’s Promenade, which uses Ozark folklore as a basis for a project that combines photographs with fictional stories, oral histories and found ephemera. Their collaborative work has been exhibited at 555 Gallery (Boston), Candela Gallery (Richmond), Filter Space (Chicago), Phoenix Art Museum (Phoenix), photo-eye (Santa Fe), among other venues. Devil’s Promenade has been featured on National Public Radio, Oxford American, VICE and Mossless Magazine and the books and prints from this series are held in various collections including the Museum of Modern Art Library (New York), Museum of Contemporary Photography (Chicago) and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (Kansas City).
What is your work about?
The Ozark backwoods are a place you feel. The dark nooks to hide, made in encroaching woods and the banks of rivers, the smell of wet life and decay, a steady insect hum, all create a backdrop for a people with a particular fascination for the mysteries of darkness and light. Here some of the oldest stories of humanity are told—wanderers’ lost souls and paths taken towards good or evil—but with a local twist in the tale of a strange orb of light.
This region is marked by isolated poverty, a wariness of outsiders, and a struggle between heaven and hell that factors into everyday conversation. Spook Light is known as a floating orb found on a wooded road in a region where the Devil is said to reside. In lieu of a scientific explanation the appearance of the Spook Light has come to represent for the community a desire for redemption and the fear of slipping into darkness. It is the sublime experience whose defiance of explanation provides a reprieve from ordinary life while the stories told to explain its origin are firmly rooted in the foundation of human existence.
Devil’s Promenade blends folklore and local history with present day photographs of Ozark people, the land, and interpretive images based on the living mythology of the Light. Our aim is not to provide documentation or an explanation of the phenomenon, but to suggest a narrative that, in the spirit of the light, is part fixed in this unique region and part afloat in a mysterious, otherworldly realm.
How does photographing on film (or using your material photographic process of predilection) inform your artistic practice?
Over the course of five years Devil’s Promenade evolved into a multi-layered body of work utilizing contemporary images, text, archival photographs and objects. The images in this work were made using 4×5 sheet film and 120 film. The decision for using film came about for several reasons, based on logistics and aesthetics. The process of shooting film forced us to work at a slower pace, ultimately creating a contemplative space for better understanding our work while we were in the field. While tedious, this way of working allowed the project to unfold in an organic and thoughtful way. Additionally, using large-format film gave us the latitude to make large-scale exhibition prints, emphasizing the psychological importance of the Ozark landscape. As photographers who use both film and digital media, we felt in the case of Devil’s Promenade, that film would allow us to reach the highest aesthetic quality. Film allows for a unique depth of color, contrast and detail that was important to the overall visual sensibilities of this work.