SARAH PFOHL (Greencastle IN, USA)
Sarah Pfohl is an artist and teacher. She utilizes photography, drawing, and writing to examine issues of teaching, schooling, place, and ability. Across this network of forms and fields, Sarah is particularly interested in making work that challenges dominant (oftentimes narrow, one-dimensional) representations of systemically marginalized groups or activities. A combination of reading and study in critical rural theory, disability studies, and critical educational theory in dialogue with Sarah’s personal experiences of rural places, disability, and classroom teaching currently inform her work as an artist. Sarah’s work has been exhibited throughout the U.S. and published internationally. New work from ‘The forest rests also in you’, Sarah’s ongoing photography project, was published as the second issue of Halfmoon Projects’ TK series in January 2018.
Born in New Hartford, New York in 1982, Sarah grew up in the unincorporated territory outside of Hubbardsville, New York on a hill between two cornfields surrounded by immediate and extended family and a whole bunch of forests. Sarah earned graduate degrees from Syracuse University (MFA, Art Photography) and Harvard University (Ed.M., Arts in Education) and an undergraduate degree from Pratt Institute (BFA, Drawing).
An older woman stands in a place with trees, plants, branches—in a place with growing, living things. She is alone, the only person in the pictures. She was photographed with or near different trees, plants, and branches in different seasons.
At times she touches the world around her, these plants, these branches, with her hands and fingers. At other times she almost touches the world around her but does not quite. Proximity, a closeness, a nearness emerges. She looks and is present without an end or the satisfaction of a climax or nameable event.
A judgment and firm argument: Wondrous things fill the place. A dead, crooked tree. A field of milkweed broken open, fragile seeds wobbling back and forth in the wind. One, every once in a while, detaching from the pod and floating along with the breeze, a hairy, wandering orb lifted by the thin, reaching, white strands, anchored by the possibility of new life in that little brown seed that looks like an single eye. The hope of a plant for more life. Light through an apple tree. Light through another nearby apple tree. The robust, virile trunk of a poplar that no one planted. Leaves, all of them different. Dirt and roots. Grass. Goldenrod touching and then also taller than, at times, the lowest branches of a 25-foot tree.
For so many people it looks like nothing. For a few, it not only makes sense to watch this stuff, to observe and be with these tiny changes as they unfold, but it makes sense also to allow these little seemingly-nothings to become both turning points in your heart and the anchors of your daily life. The lenses through which you learn and know the world. Locations of reassurance and guidance in a wider world that seems so separate from the values of the forms you live your life by and surrounded by.
In the same way a parent might make you into who you are in so many ways, for some people a place does that, too. More so even, for some people, than the humans that surround them.
I photograph my Mom in the place where we both grew up. These are the things that made me. The person and the place together. I look just like them now. I can’t imagine myself without them.
Practice Statement: How does photographing on film (or using your material photographic process of predilection) inform your artistic practice?
Film teaches me patience. I get a lot done in the in-between moments that helps me grow my projects and build my intentionality as I move forward with a body of work.