Matthew Genitempo takes us into the misty, moody Ozark mountains with his project, Jasper, a collection of haunting monochrome photos that drip with rain, hang with broken branches, and capture the lives of those who’ve sequestered themselves away into the wilderness.
“By capturing the foggy landscapes, cluttered interiors, and the rugged men that are tucked away in the dark woods, this project explores the fascination with running away from the everyday”, he says. “The idea of disappearing is attractive — getting away from the pressures of jobs, our relationships and the constant barrage of social media”.
Matthew’s photos can appear hallucinatory, as if we were looking beyond reality and into something ghostlier. These aren’t glamorous depictions of a rural idyll; his subjects have returned to nature only to find themselves battered and bruised by the elements. A tent is depicted, hidden underneath the shadows of leaves. Houses appear fashioned out of scrap material, steam floats up from a chimney, and a person writes in a cave-turned-home.
“Isolated folks still carry their past. You can disappear, but you can’t escape”, the photographer explains. A mood of melancholy permeates the images, mirrored by the grey weather and charcoal tones. The series is raw and melodic, enhanced by the poetry from Ryan Paradiso. He writes, “pines grow pulling the old dreams through the soil pinesap climbing into its limbs lifting a ladder like solitude”. The project captures the feel of a world wanting to be forgotten.
“Thinking back to photographing this project, it feels like a dream”, Matthew explains. “There was a lot of driving down roads I shouldn’t have, knocking on doors in the middle of nowhere.” Previously the photographer started his projects with ideas and expectations, this removed any form of spontaneity and discovery. It was the opposite for Jasper. “It was about trust”, he tells us. “It was about giving up control and submitting to something greater. I just took a chance and was in the mercy of the process”.
Matthew traverses this strange world, journeying between one person and the next. Inspired by the poet Frank Stanford, he surveyed this land, capturing its soul and mysterious spirit. As Steve Stern writes on the writer, “he’d located a spot equidistant from heaven and hell”.