Suburban Dreams by Beth Yarnelle Edwards will be on view at CEPA's satellite space in the Campos Photography Center from June 1 - 27, 1998. The following is Beth Yarnelle Edwards' artist statement for Suburban Dreams. Click on any of the thumbnail images below to view full versions of Edwards' works.

Artist Statement: I'm fascinated by the signs and symbols of contemporary life. I'm interested in relationships between people, the spaces they inhabit and their possessions. My photographs are visual explorations of people, places and things in middle-class suburbs of the San Francisco Bay Area during this last decade of the 20th century.

These suburbs are for many a physical embodiment of the American Dream, a place where natural beauty, material comfort and relative safety intersect with economic opportunities in high tech industry, an increasingly diverse yet predominately affluent population, and nearby access to cultural centers. These areas are also outrageously expensive, busy, crowded and unforgiving of the less skilled or redundant worker.

My black and white photographs are staged narrative scenes based on my ideas and visions about suburban life. I'm particularly interested in how the material dreams of suburbia--the living spaces and possessions--are generated, including the influence of myth, film, television, advertising, cultural background, gender issues, family history and basic human needs. These images lean toward the surreal and cinematic.

The color portraits are made in collaboration with girls and boys, men and women of all ages. I ask adults to choose a space within their home or its surroundings which reflects their personal identity or sense of self. Unless they have another preference, I photograph children in their bedrooms because I believe that is the place where they have the most autonomy and the opportunity for self-expression. Before bringing out the camera, I make a preview visit and talk to my subjects about their lives, their personal space and their possessions. I ask about their preferences, what they would like the viewer to see, and we talk about what they will wear and do. On the day of the shoot, I record a short interview, which may later be used in conjunction with a book of these photographs.

It is an important feature of my work that I'm a cultural insider. My working methods are designed to keep the balance of power between subject and photographer as equal as possible, and though I sometimes allow humor, I do not ridicule. My intention is to explore and critique culture, not the individual.

I realize that there may be no absolute truth, that photography is inherently subjective, and that my images will ultimately be as much about me and the viewer as about my subject. I'm trying to locate the place where the mythic intersects with the mundane, where dream merges with reality. Although I don't set out to make pretty pictures, it's important to me that this work be visually engaging. I want to attract the viewer's eye and mind. I want to start a conversation.

Beth Yarnelle Edwards © 1998



Campos Photography Center
1016 Niagara Falls Blvd.
Tonawanda NY 14150
Phone: (716) 837-1016