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PDN Classified 20c.indd 1
question: Does the prairie long to be an inland sea again?
pdn: How did you determine where to go?
RN W: I would tend to start and end in my hometown
in the southern Black Hills, Hot Springs, where I’d walk
and wander and photograph some of my old haunts
while visiting my parents. From there, I’d then drive to
places in the state I’d never visited—such as the entire length of the Missouri River Valley and the Glacial
Lakes region. In these unfamiliar landscapes, I’d often
drive rather aimlessly along the back roads and stop
only when I came across an image that intrigued me
for some reason.
A few months after my brother died, one of the first
images that spoke to me when I was most grief struck
was a flock of some thousand blackbirds that moved
like a single, dark, undulating, ravenous creature as it
flew through the stormy, unsettled Western sky, picking clean the remains of the corn and sunflower fields
in the last days of autumn.
pdn: In many of the images we are looking
through something, or there is a reflection or a
unique or confounding or even disorienting perspective. What roles do perspective and layering
play in your images?
RNW: I photograph very intuitively. Looking at some
of these disorienting photographs now—where it’s
difficult to distinguish the background from the foreground, for instance—I realize that kind of confusion
was very much a part of my grief, especially when I was
most grief struck.
Those first months after my brother died, my dreams
of him seemed more real than when I awoke to a world
without him. Added to that, I wasn’t sleeping well and
I was traveling alone in parts of South Dakota that I’d
never visited. So that difficult time in my life was a blur
of motel rooms, back roads and dreams of my brother.
During that time, I not only felt confused while photographing in South Dakota, but I also felt confused
when I returned to Brooklyn [New York] to edit the film
and to try to make sense of what I’d been doing. I remember showing the work to my friend [photographer]
Eugene Richards, who at that time was traveling back
and forth from Brooklyn to the Great Plains to work on
his book The Blue Room. When he asked me how things
were coming along with My Dakota, I told him I wasn’t
sure what I was doing. He said to me in his soft, gentle
voice, “Becky, sometimes confusion is good.”
pdn: How did editing the images and text to-
gether affect the editing process? Did the work of
integrating the text change how you understood
Visit the “Features” section of
PDNOnline to read our full interview
with Rebecca Norris Webb.