New York-based photographer Landon Nordeman’s series Prom in Flint captures students at their high school prom, in all their flamboyant finery. The images are part of a bigger project called, Flint is A Place by Zack Canepari, which includes films, photographs and documents from the city, aiming to “tell the story of what is happening in this iconic American town”.
Flint has had ongoing problems relating to crime and economic depression, but has hit headlines in recent years for its water crisis which first began in 2014, when the drinking water source for the city was changed to the Flint River. Due to poor water treatment, over 100,000 residents were potentially exposed to high levels of lead in the drinking water. It’s only now in 2017 that the water quality has returned to “acceptable levels”, however residents have been instructed to continue using bottled and filtered water until all the lead pipes have been replaced, which is expected to finish in 2020.
Landon’s photographs were taken at Northwestern High School, one of only two remaining high schools in the city. Graduating seniors have been affected by the lack of clean water and the circumstances that arise from “generational poverty and a lack of resources”. While the students seemingly have “the odds stacked against them”, Landon has captured them in all their colourful swagger. “Prom night in Flint is not just another high school dance. It’s a yearly cultural tradition – I thought of it as the ‘Met Ball’ of Flint,” says Landon.
“I love photographing rituals of celebration because people dress their best and expect to be photographed. Although they may be expecting controlled and posed photographs, the uncontrolled moments appeal to me,” the photographer continues. “Prom night in Flint was no exception. The students brought boundless energy and enthusiasm to this night – I couldn’t help but smile all night long just being around them. How fortunate was I to be caught up in the midst of their excitement and friendship as they celebrated this ritual in their young lives?” For Landon, the photographic process is “rooted in discovery” and his stories unfold as he moves from one discovery to the next. Here the narrative is clear and Landon’s bold approach allows him to capture the gestures, the colour and the humour between these proud teenagers.
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