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In an era when color photography is dominant, Danny Wilcox Frazier’s black-and-white images stand out—and their somber graininess serves his aims well.
Frazier, a documentary photojournalist, is a native of Iowa. Since 2003, he’s spent time photographing depopulated rural communities across the Midwest and the Great Plains, more than a decade before that topic approached the top of the nation’s domestic agenda.
Some of Frazier’s images offer a familiar archetype of those who live in America’s interior, notably a 2012 photograph from South Dakota’s Badlands that features a bunch of men standing around a tractor and lugging an impossibly long rifle.
To his credit, though, Frazier’s lens also captures a reality more racially diverse than today’s stereotype—African Americans in Detroit, and a variety of Native Americans from reservations across the region.
A few of Frazier’s images are grim to the point of gory, notably one of a dog picking at a carcass outside an RV that’s been stripped of its tires. More impressive are the works in which he captures just the right detail, such as the image of a youngster sleeping on the floor under a blanket with a stray package of cigarettes just inches from his head, or the photograph of the girl on the Pine Ridge reservation captured just as her hand obscures her mouth, leaving enigmatic whether she’s laughing or crying.
Though most of his images are similarly intimate, a few offer a grander sweep, such as a dreamy photograph of horsemen in the mist at an Oglala-Lakota Nation Pow Wow.
His finest photograph, however, is “John Neumann, Cactus Flat, South Dakota, 2008.” In it, a man tinkers under a vehicle, his torso hidden behind one of its wheels. His Stetson, however, is perched on top of the tire—a cheeky update to Lewis Hine’s famous image of a power house worker whose body is constrained by his mechanical task.
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