Susan Lipper’s photographic series Grapevine was shot over four years from 1988 to 1992. The series takes its name from Grapevine Branch in West Virginia, a small community where Susan found herself for a while after graduating the Yale photography programme.
During her time living in the close-knit community, Susan began interviewing and photographing the residents with her medium-format camera. The resulting images are a cross between documentary photography with more constructed images.
These complex narratives Susan has created with her sitters play to the characteristics of the rural community with themes of alcohol, guns, hunting are all present. Initially the main draw for Susan was to capture male-female relationships with the traditional values and roles upheld by the community being in contrast to what she’d been exposed to before. But from spending time with the small town, it became more of a portrait on the community as a whole.
At the time, Susan believed the portrayal of these kind of communities had simply reemphasised stereotypical ideas of the rural south, with “hillbillies” and the like. While her series does still convey some of these clichés, Susan also challenges this impression by collaborating with her subjects to create the images.
From hard-hitting portrayals of the deer hunting season to other snapshots of family life, Susan’s series is compelling and at times uncomfortable. Playing to our “fears” and perceptions, the photographer captures a picture of Grapevine Branch that still resonates today.
Grapevine is currently on show at Higher Pictures, New York until 14 January 2017.