Meghan Duda:One Mississippi , 2015,
Two Mississippi , 2020
silver gelatin photograph
“Meghan Duda: The States Project: North Dakota,” Meghan Kirkwood, Lenscratch
“Artists in Residence: Meghan Duda,” Alexandra Martin, Design & Living
Meghan Duda creates work that brings an architectural and design sensibility to explorations of landscape and regional identity, and, in that process, challenges the viewer to consider both how they see the land and what meaning they cultivate from those perceptions. From her home base in Fargo, Duda’s experimentation with photographic process opens provocative windows through which to reassess art history.
The One Mississippi and Two Mississippi series speaks to this multidisciplinary aesthetic. Originally encountering the pinhole camera while training as an architect, Duda incorporated the practice into her subsequent work as a photographer through the creation of Trailer Obscura, a 5’ by 8’ enclosed trailer that functions as a mobile pinhole camera. With Trailer Obscura, Duda was able to create photographs while traveling along the length of the Mississippi River. Through the durational nature of this kind of engagement with landscape, Duda reframes our most basic assumptions of landscape – and our place in it. In a conversation with Lenscratch, Duda describes the finished effects of this series:
“The final images are simple atmospheric gradations of light that become place and no-place at the same time, challenging the relevance of vantage point and scale and demonstrating the effect of time on our perception of visible space. This inquiry into the fundamental elements of photography, and the surprising aesthetic I discover through this investigation, is the primary driver of my photographic pursuit to observe inhabited space in an objective way.”
Duda’s work provides a contemporary counterpoint to the 19th century phenomenon of the scrolling panoramas of the Mississippi River, often advertised to the paying public as miles-long painted recreations of the river’s communities and landscapes. While dramatic in their scale and sustained realism – and an enormous cultural phenomenon at the time – these representations amplified in the popular imagination a sanctified understanding of settler colonial expansion and the violence that enabled it. Understanding that such sweeping projects have as much at stake for the viewer and their vantage point, One Mississippi and Two Mississippi question the sentimentality behind such a unified understanding of place while powerfully expanding our sense of what can be seen from a single overlook.
Duda’s presence has been central to the ongoing photography conversation in this region, through exhibitions in the Midwest and beyond, as well as through her work with emerging artists as Assistant Professor of Photography and Design at North Dakota State University.
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