About the Photographer
American, b. 1961
Justin Kimball photographs in multiple small towns across America, particularly in places experiencing economic decline. Rather than working in a strict documentary effort, Kimball instead shows communities in an enduring search for an idyll, with often imperfect results. In his series, “Where We Find Ourselves” (1996-2004), Kimball depicts families on vacation and people relaxing outdoors in places like campgrounds and national parks. The images all share a sense of escape and coalesce as a loose reflection on American habits of leisure. In one photograph, Deep Hold, New Hampshire (2002), a group of young adults stands along a wooded riverbank beside a tumbling waterfall. The sun-dappled forest resembles the Arcadian scenes of 19th century landscape paintings by the Hudson River School, while the loose arrangement of figures on the rocky shore echoes the relaxed nudes in Thomas Eakins' 1885 painting, The Swimming Hole. The moments of leisure that Kimball captures, however, are just as likely to take place in a small fenced-in backyard, a muddy creek, or a sandy beach flanked by cars.
In another series, “Pieces of String” (2007-2011) Kimball photographs the objects left behind in abandoned homes, hotels, and buildings that reveal evidence of an individual’s life. Kimball was often accompanied by his brother Doug, an auctioneer, who scavenges recently vacated homes of the deceased or dispersed of items for potential resale. In exploring the former lives of these individuals, Kimball creates a perceived narrative of the lives of his deceased subjects and the deduced relationships to their objects and surroundings.
Finally, Kimball’s Elegy (2016) series depicts the severe economic decline in certain small towns in New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Each town has similar attributes, making one undistinguishable from another and featuring lush mountains set as the backdrop to buildings with peeling paint, piles of rubbish, and unkempt lawns. As the title of the series implies, the towns seem on the brink of extinction and perhaps never expected to recover.
Justin Kimball completed his BFA in photography at the Rhode Island School of Design and an MFA in photography at the Yale University School of Art and Architecture. He received the Aaron Siskind Individual Photographer Fellowship (2011); John Anson Kittredge Educational Fund, Harvard University (2005); Guggenheim Fellowship, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (2003). His work is held in the collections of the Corcoran Museum of Art, Washington, DC; George Eastman House, Rochester, NY; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA; Portland Museum of Art, OR; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA.