Between 2012 and 2016, Justin Kimball (American, b. 1961, RISD BFA 1985, Photography) drove through Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia photographing small towns that have lost the industries that once made them prosperous communities. Some images portray the residents, their pride, and their hope for renewal, while other images capture dilapidated structures and empty streets. Kimball was keenly aware that the street names—such as Coal Street, West Frack Street, Liberty Street, and Spruce Street—reflect the industries and upward mobility of past times rather than the reality of today. He used them as picture titles without identifying the towns, suggesting these sites could represent many places within the U.S. and prompting us to reflect upon similar challenges in our own state. For every elegy, there is a living audience thinking about the future as much as the past.
This exhibition acknowledges the generous promised gift of this group of inkjet photographs from the Brandler Family. We are also grateful to the artist and to Joseph Carroll of Joseph Carroll and Sons, Boston, for their generous assistance with the project.