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An Intimate Look at What ‘Home’ Means In the American West

Derrick Washington & Kurt Gramm, Los Angeles, CA © Erica Deeman

Terina Taulogo, St. George, UT © Ricardo Nagaoka

You’re likely to get a different answer each time speak to someone about what home means to them. To some, home is where they sleep at night. Whilst to others, home is a feeling within – often linked to where they spent their childhood.

For the first time since their foundation, The California Sunday Magazine, in collaboration with Aperture Foundation are bringing their December issue to life in the form of an exhibition. Through a series that includes intimate portraits and personal stories, the work aims to get to the core of what home means to residents in Western America.

At Home: In the American West opens from December 6th – January 4th at the Aperture Foundation Bookstore and Gallery. Featuring the work of emerging and established photographers, the exhibition displays emotional and moving experiences, told by a variety of individuals, friends and families.

Ahead of the opening, we spoke to The California Sunday’s Director of Photography, Jacqueline Bates, to learn more about the project.

Hope Jimmerson & Najave Jimmerson, Denver, CO © Widline Cadet

This will be the first time California Sunday have brought images from the magazine into a gallery setting. Can you tell us what the process of putting the exhibition together has been like for you?
“Normally, when Photography Editor Paloma Shutes and I are commissioning for the magazine, we’re thinking about producing photography for print and online. But to create photography that will come off the page into a 3,000-square-foot gallery space is such a unique opportunity for us. While I’m familiar with how exhibitions come together — in college, I interned in the photo curatorial department at the Whitney Museum — this felt like a new experiment. I was very happy to collaborate with our editors, as well as our audio director for this issue, Stephanie Foo. Jennifer O’Keeffe, the former co-founder of Casemore Kirkeby Gallery, stepped in to help us figure out the best approaches for printing and hanging the work, and Amelia Lang, the associate publisher at Aperture Foundation, lent her expertise. The exhibit — and our December issue — is sponsored by Google Pixel, and at the exhibit, you can check out some behind-the-scenes assets showing how this all came together, taken on the Pixel 3.”

Debbie Austin, Portland, OR © Lauren Angalis Field

What was it about this particular project that made you feel it was the right time to put on an exhibition?
“We hire a lot of fine-art photographers, so it made sense to bring this photography-centric issue to the gallery wall. We’re also big fans of Aperture and love that they showcase young talent on both their gallery walls and in their own magazine. Plus, we’re always looking to experiment with multimedia storytelling. This will be an exciting, off-the-page experience where readers can literally walk through our cover story.”

Jasson Kyser, Longview, WA © Andrew Miksys

There are some exceptionally emotive stories in the work – was there a particular story that really stuck with you?
“People finding ‘home’ for the first time — those stories are particularly moving. In At Home, photographer Andrew Miksys captures a formerly homeless woman who’s found a place of her own in a tiny-house village in Seattle. And Ricardo Nagaoka photographed a DACA recipient in Saratoga Springs, Utah, who just purchased his first house. The great thing about At Home is that it showcases so many different definitions of what home is to people.”

Dennis Yang, San Francisco, CA © Talia Herman

One of the central aims of the magazine is to ask vital questions through the medium of photography. What questions do you feel At Home asks?
“It asks a seemingly simple question: Where, or what is home to you? But I think the range of answers goes to show that it’s a very complex concept that’s related to so many other issues dominating the news cycle, like immigration, the wildfires, and housing costs.”

Roscoe Mitchell, Oakland, CA © David Black

Without giving too much away, was there a common theme with the way the subjects felt about the place they call home?
“Many people defined ‘home’ in relation to family or other people, or as a literal residence. But it was also interesting to see people who thought about home as something else entirely — the ocean, a hiking trail, school, a community.”

Teira Church, Los Angeles, CA © Texas Isaiah

During a time of major political divide and a societal structure that continues to become “us and them,” is there a hope that At Home highlights the similarities we share in relation to home life – no matter where we come from?
“Yes. And in addition to the photographs and captions, you also have the option to hear from the subjects directly — via audio footnotes on your phone — as you walk through the gallery. Listening to their voices makes for a more intimate, multilayered viewing experience.”

Mary Dambacher, Taos, NM © Ahndraya Parlato & Gregory Halpern

The project features both new and experienced photographers – how do you ensure you get the balance right so that there is a fair representation across the board?
“At California Sunday, we strive to work with established and emerging photographers in every issue. That means always being on the lookout and meeting with emerging talent. This issue and the accompanying exhibit, in particular, was a big project, and we tackled the commissions with a mix of approaches: We looked at a lot of local photographers, as well as photographers whose work and interests aligned with some of the themes we were covering. Once some initial photography came in, we’d evaluate to make sure there was a balance of established and emerging photographers, as well as a wide mix of aesthetics. In this exhibit, you’ll see photographs by Jim Goldberg — whose work frequents art galleries — on the same wall as ones by Pixy Liao, a rising photographer whose California Sunday commission was her first foray into editorial work.”

Liz Otwell, Point Roberts, WA © Irina Rozovsky

The exhibition is running over the holiday season. Was this a conscious decision? As it’s at a time of the year when we tend to think and return to the place we call home…
“It was luck of timing, but we were also aware of what people tend to feel at the end of the year — it’s an opportunity to be with family, to celebrate at home, and to look back on the year. That was on our minds as we assigned this issue.”

Susan Pullman, Cardwell, MT © Marshall Scheuttle

Finally, what does home mean to you?
“Home is a subject I’ve long explored with my own photography — for my MFA thesis at the School of Visual Arts in New York, I focused on my Italian American family, specifically the traditions and roles of women and how they transform from generation to generation.”

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