Around the same time Walmart stopped selling confederate flags a member of our towns council told a man he had to take his down. His flag was old, tattered and worn, hanging (quite literally) by a thread. In a few years time it would have fallen down and been forgotten, but somebody stepped in saying that this wasn’t allowed. So, instead of removing his flag, he bought three new ones to proudly display. The townspeople stood behind his right to have the symbol on his private property and consequently additional flags began popping up all over town.
Initially I was intrigued, wandering around seeing how many I could find. Each time I went home, new ones appeared. Eventually it occurred to me that this was an interesting thing, maybe not so unique to my hometown, that needed to be documented.
The confederate flag as a symbol is difficult, because it is so loaded. Some see it as a sign of prejudice and racial in equality, others believe it represents freedom from being told what to do. The latter is a vast majority of a small town viewpoint.
I was drawn to this symbol and its growth in popularity primarily because it’s located in the North. While talking to a friend from Louisiana this past weekend, she brought up the idea of an adopted heritage. We’re not a Southern town, yet the flag is flown with pride because many agree with it’s ideals (mainly state over federal government). I began to realize that this work has nothing to do with racism and everything to do with small town politics.
These photographs are about property rights, what we can and cannot do and display on our land. It’s about people adopting and standing behind a symbol that can mean more than one thing. This work is documenting just one way people from a specific place support each another, standing up for their rights. It’s about a little place that believes in little government and has a hard time being told what to do. These are rebel flags, calling them confederate flags changes the work. Confederate flags make you think of the civil war, slavery and other more historical events. While I am not blind to see that those subjects appear here, that is not what I want the viewer to dwell on. I want the viewer to be drawn in by the symbolism, but hope they will sit with it long enough to see a meaning deeper than that.
I didn’t want to make a biased collection of photographs, didn’t want them to state my opinion, I just wanted to document what was there. These aren’t meant to portray people negatively (or even positively) but rather just as they are. I am attempting to speak about something larger than what one first thinks of when they see the stars and bars, especially in this Northern context.
The longer I sit with the images, the more they tell me. As I continue to shoot, it is my hope that new truths make themselves known.