Brittany La Tour
Driven by the isolation of a nomadic childhood, only compounded by the pandemic, I have turned my artistic focus to my immediate surroundings over the course of the past two years. In doing so I have come to realize the unique beauty in the chaos and stillness of the everyday lives of my family members as they exist in our current, rural environment on a backwoods, private dirt road. Using almost exclusively natural or available lighting, my photographs are a mixture of portraits, wide angle, and detail shots, which, when in the context of each other create a cohesive, almost narrative, photographic essay. My goal in this photographic project is simply to document a way of life that is a reality for so many and is much more prevalent than perhaps is realized by the mainstream, and yet deserves to be seen.
Buttermilk Falls Road is a two mile long private dirt road in New York State with a bridge about a mile and half down that has been out for the past 15 years. In my town, this road is notorious. You need only say Buttermilk and anyone in town knows exactly what you are talking about. This road is the last of its kind in Warwick. It is a safe haven for the reclusive redneck, the struggling single parent family, rural drug dealers, or simply those who don’t want to be seen or be bothered. The town has been waiting for this road to die out for years. For that reason, Buttermilk gets absolutely no maintenance from the town, crater sized potholes decorate the road, when it rains streams run down the road eroding the gravel away even further. At this point the road is basically a dried up riverbed climbing down the side of a mountain, and once December hits, it becomes a sheet of ice. In the winter residents burn their garbage when the garbage trucks refuse to come down, and we plow the road with quads, rising before the sun to salt the road so that you could get your car up it before school or work. Most people here heat their houses with wood stoves and eat the meat that they hunted all winter long. In the spring people tap maple trees to make syrup, in the summer it’s moonshine that many residents are making. By the time fall rolls around neighbors are taking to the trails with their quads and dirt bikes and heading over the mountain and through the woods to raid the nearby apple orchards, returning with their stolen treasures to make cider and apple sauce. On the weekends the road is marked by hoards of teenage boys mobbing up and down the road on their dirt bikes, and the sound of gunshots only add to the backwoods rough and tumble tone of the road.
The living conditions here produce a very strange sense of community, with each neighbor looking out for and helping one another while simultaneously suspecting them of all kinds of wrong doings. Buttermilk has actually had a disproportionate amount of tragedy. In the past 5 years alone, this road has seen multiple suicides, terminal accidents, and tragic house fires. It’s a rough life that lends itself to a very tough kind of people, and a way of life I’m determined to capture and plan on working on for years to come as I feel that this portrait has so much more to say.