These photographs by Joanna Marshall belong to a larger project called “On Highway AA: Living with a Sense of Place.” During the winter and spring of 2019, she photographed her neighborhood, a 2 ½ mile stretch of blacktop in northern Missouri.
The project was inspired by the work of Alexandra Horowitz, who wrote a book called On Looking: A Walker’s Guide to the Art of Observation. In it, she explains that she decided to walk the blocks around her home even though they were “not particularly special” because she had a fondness for them, “born of familiarity,” and because, as they had become familiar, she rarely looked at them. I realized that, fond as I was of my home, and even though I had a nearly muscle memory of the bends and curves and hills and valleys along AA, and was familiar with each structure and acreage along its route, in my normal routine I saw them only fleetingly.
For five months, I got out of my car and spent hours on foot, looking closely and long at these everyday sights. One spot that I treasured was a newly filled farm pond that we had to wait three years to dig because of soggy soils and then three years to fill because of drought. It became a favored subject for my attention, and I returned again and again to the one scene, as it revealed moods that changed with the season, the weather, and the time of day. The images included here comprise a few of those moments. I accompany them with a single image of a small, older, almost hidden farm pond that now (sadly) gets much less of our attention.
My hope is that these images reflect what the photographer Teju Cole calls a “collaboration with what is given by the world” and provide a sense of the sacred in the ordinary through an “an intensity of looking at the world, and looking really closely, and photographing things that [are] not exciting, but things that [are] sort of washed with presence, with light.”