Anika Steppe


I was invited to work on a project with a man named Wayne. The project aims to revisit and document the history of Bald Hill, a town in central New York that was forcibly removed in the 1930s. During our second meeting Wayne handed me two overstuffed binders of photocopies he made at Staples and a couple of Wal-Mart bags full of original archival images. These hundreds of photographs were meant to be read and used as evidence; proof that these real people were forced out of their homes and subsequently displaced in the surrounding towns. Wayne can look at any of these photos and know who is pictured, where and when it was taken, and what it would look like if taken today. I was overwhelmed by these photos’ candid bizarreness that has surely heightened with the passage of time. This portrait of a muscular horse (the two headless people on its back were obviously of secondary interest to the photographer) exemplifies the strangeness of this collection. When I asked Wayne where this photo would fit in the project he said it would not be part of the book seeing as it was not taken on Bald Hill. The idea that this photo could be seen as irrelevant was heartbreaking to me; I scanned it anyway knowing that it transcended this strictly historical record. When I look at this photo I don’t see evidence; I see an image whose triviality and sincerity trumps its factual importance.