Danny Wilcox Frazier’s “Driftless”

“Driftless” paints an emotionless, bleak picture of Iowa and its struggling inhabitants. Frazier asks nothing of his viewers, and he makes no effort to emotionally connect us to his subjects. They simply are. However, that isn’t to say the photos (particularly the landscapes) aren’t dramatic.  I’m especially intrigued by his use of portraits that appear still and posed, but are actually video. The shot with Gabriel Stutzman and brother, Karlin, is especially haunting. To see video used in such a way appeals to me since I am traditionally a still photographer.

This multimedia piece is made of six “chapters,” if you will: One about a family farm struggling to survive with disinterested children, another about a woman who found sanctuary from her boredom in Denver. A look at migrant farm workers follows a segment on a group of young Iowans hanging out at a lake. A country butcher laments his unsatisfying career before a farming widower, Harry, talks about happier times with his wife.

I am utterly amazed by the sheer number of people invovled with this project. It seems as though in class, we are always told one should always be equipped not only to photograph, but also to interview, find the story, edit, and produce. Frazier’s team includes a producer, executive producer, cinematographer, two audio guys, and not one but two interns – and that’s not even the entire list!


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