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Cody Bratt: 2016 Finalist

Growing up in the California foothills, I was captivated by the Gold Rush ruins and historical marks left on the land. As an only child raised in a rural area, I spent much of my childhood alone, left with plenty of time to indulge in imaginative, fictional histories for these lost places that entranced me.

Love We Leave Behind consists of two intertwined threads: landscapes and portraits. The combination represents and merges two distinct image making processes. The landscapes were made by traveling—day and night—through thousands of miles of seemingly unbound spaces in California and Nevada. In contrast, the portraits were shot in short (one to two hour) sessions in small and confined spaces; the only variables being the room, the model, and myself.

Once home, I tried to find image pairs which conversed with each other and allowed for the exterior and interior elements of both to blend together. A similar thing occurs when we actually   inhabit a space—we aren’t independent actors—we’re fused with the space while we’re present. I wanted to ask two questions: As we build places into the land and pass through them, what sorts of marks do our interior emotional lives leave behind? And, as those places age and disappear, does that emotional residue continue to persist in a detectable fashion?

In the end, by fusing both documentary and fictional narrative approaches, I aimed to open enough ambiguity in the realness of the story for the answer to those questions to be dependent on the viewer’s own relationship with the images. In other words, it’s likely that our longevity is entirely dependent on the stories we choose to tell ourselves about the places we’ve been. —Cody Bratt

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