“Trucks, guns and Jesus”: Timothy Frazier captures his part of the Virginia Bible Belt

The photographer explains why he wanted to break out of the art-world “echo chamber” and how this attitude fed into The Grass Ain’t Greener.

24 September 2021

Currently based in the “middle of nowhere” in Virginia, the photographer Timothy Frazier turned his lens on the forgotten rural communities that lie scattered throughout the southwesterly Bible Belt. “Trucks, guns and Jesus are the culture in the sticks,” he tells us of his latest series The Grass Ain’t Greener. But this project is different from the many others we’ve seen that capture similar subjects in small-town America. For one, Timothy’s photography is bathed in a distinctive glow which features across the series. He provides the viewer with a unique insight into the people and their surroundings, overlapping genres of documentary photojournalism and fine art, and editing the collection with a striking, attention-grabbing hue.

“Not much has changed in this neck of the woods since the 50s,” says Timothy. “Many earn a living through manufacturing work or manual labour,” and over the decades, a further division has widened between its upper-middle-class and working-class residents. Though the world has changed a lot since then, Timothy has noticed that many of these communities seem content with their personal beliefs staying the same. The Grass Ain’t Greener is an exploration of this, an ongoing project digging deep into the auteur’s paternal family’s roots and investigating the ways in which poverty, religion and regional isolation have shaped the greater area of Southwest Virginia.

When Timothy landed on his unique aesthetic, he wanted to find a way to give the area its own feel and in turn, provide a visual culture to the American South at large. The hot sticky weather is certainly palpable in the warm tones, but there is also a slight surreality seen within the saturated, almost fuzzy edges of Timothy’s original photography. He adds on the series: “I’m far more interested in learning about people and cultures that are different from my own than I am being around people who agree with every silly thing I think or feel.” Noting how the art world can often be an “echo chamber where they only hang out or associate with other, like-minded individuals,” Timothy feels differently and looks to get out of his comfort zone. “If more people learned how to actually interact or talk with people they disagree with,” he adds, “people might finally realise they really aren’t that different from one another.”

GalleryTimothy Frazier: The Grass Ain’t Greener (Copyright © Timothy Frazier, 2021)

By talking with people who have different views from his own, Timothy has learnt there is no such thing as a cookie-cut Democrat or Republican and much of a person’s credo comes down to their life experience. “You won’t grow as a person if you only associate with people who also got the same overpriced art degree,” he says. As someone who moved around a lot growing up – he was born in Tampa but has lived in seven different states – Timothy was immersed in a variety of communities across the socioeconomic and sociopolitical spectrum. His first dabbling with photography came during his high-school years when he was introduced to a darkroom. Since then, his work has been published mainly in photography magazines; he is also creative director and publisher of Photographic Bandwidth.

The photographer highlights a couple of particularly poignant images from the series. The first sees a young girl in a “Girl Power” hoodie, her father’s hands on her shoulders. For Timothy, the image stands out because it represents an all-important breakthrough moment in the series. “I was really pleased with that portrait when I took it,” he looks back, “as I felt that I was finally able to create an image that closely resembled an idea, concept or feelings that I had in my head.” Elsewhere, he points to a certain detail in another image. It sees a man’s waist and stomach and a tattoo which reads “Rides Like A Caddy”. For Timothy, this image encapsulates a particular essence of the series. It documents the “southern man trope found throughout the American South,” he says. “It’s a vibe in itself.”

As for the future, Timothy will continue to explore the liminal space between genres in photography, channeling these investigations through Photographic Bandwidth. He hopes the publication, currently in its debut issue, fills a void in the photo and publishing spheres. Having recently seen it released in Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million across the US, Timothy finally goes on to say, “I’m stoked to see how it does and what sort of response it receives.” Other than that, he’s working on the pre-production of issue two and hopes to work closely with other photographers to publish in-depth photo books of their respective personal projects.

GalleryTimothy Frazier: The Grass Ain’t Greener (Copyright © Timothy Frazier, 2021)

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Timothy Frazier: The Grass Ain’t Greener (Copyright © Timothy Frazier, 2021)

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.


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