My name is Macaulay Lerman and I’m a photographer and writer currently residing in Burlington, Vermont. I appreciate cameras for their ability to make imagery out of ether. Pictures quantify time in a way clocks and calendars fail to. They give shape to our passing days that would otherwise be fluid and formless. I appreciate words for their ability to translate the internal and inspire connection. As mediums, the written word and photograph are intrinsically linked. As an artist, I am fascinated by the intersection.
For as long as I can remember, I have not wanted to live in this world. It is not that I wished for my existence to cease, but rather I longed to be elsewhere. Middle-earth when I was a child, on a freight train when I was a teenager, and in my dreams and subconscious since I’ve entered adulthood. My work is inescapably linked to this condition. It is a shifting internal landscape; a depiction of elsewhere.
The images I’m sharing today come from my current ongoing series, “Greer Road.”
Thematically, the work deals with belonging and the movements of time within the context of a retired/semi-retired nomad punk community in coastal Alaska. While I composed these images and clicked the shutter, I feel it pertinent to mention my collaborators and guides, Nate and Jahnie, who housed me and introduced me to the people photographed.
I spent much of my late teens and early twenties hitchhiking, riding freight trains, and living in a camper van. By 20, I had tattooed my hands and face with a sewing needle and seen the vast majority of the US and Canada. Unable to see the fragility of my situation, I deeply believed that I’d live that life forever. By 22, I was done. I moved into a house and soon after attended a small liberal arts college in western Vermont. I am curious about others who have transitioned out of that life and found a way forward after learning to live between things for so long. I believe there is an intimacy that ex-travelers of this nature share, and I want to explore those unifying elements in my work.
My life is much quieter now and my days are prone to routine. It’s easy to forget that just a few years ago I slept in the woods beside hop out spots in Pensacola, FL, Philadelphia, PA, or Island Pond, VT, waiting to sneak aboard a 4 am train. Sometimes, I’ll be waiting in line at the grocery store, or pumping gas, and I’ll see a stranger doing the same - also marked by face and hand tattoos - and I’ll remember. I want to remember.
Daniel and I met outside a bar in Homer, AK just after sundown. Despite consistent practice, I still have major anxiety when approaching strangers. If he hadn’t struck up a conversation with me, I doubt this photo would have happened. I was shooting 4x5 and he was curious about my camera. I explained to him that, despite its archaic appearance, it was indeed a functional camera. I asked if he’d stand for a portrait. Daniel, who was originally from Kodiak, AK, talked with me about skateboarding as I fumbled under the dark cloth. He remained perfectly posed, even as a weathered grey sedan pulled up beside us and unleashed two drunken patrons who insisted on relieving themselves in the nook of their car door before disappearing into the blackness of the bar.
Turtle and I got picked up at by Nate at McDonald’s in Anchorage, AK. Together, we rode west towards Nate’s property. Blasting Skeleton Witch and nursing road beers, we carved the highway to Homer for hours. We stopped often, in complete awe of our surroundings. Though he stayed on a separate property, I saw Turtle often during my time in Alaska. One day, we took a ride out to what we were told was the westernmost point in North America.
Again blasting Skeleton Witch and nursing road beers, our vehicle lurched down a series of switchbacks both steep and narrow. Upon parking the car, the land felt low and damp. Shallow water and rocky shoals gave rise to a craggy stretch of snow covered mountains. I was struck by the contrasts of Turtle’s complexion and sweater with the deep grey/blue hue of our surroundings. Turtle stood for 3 exposures, while our feet and my tripod legs sunk deeper into the sand.
Bird and I shared a log at a friend of a friend’s BBQ. A buffet-style table held hunks of black bear, chicken wings, and an assortment of store bought cakes and pastries. Beside it, a dozen of us sat in clusters around a small fire. Nate had planned on bringing me out to Bird’s property to make a portrait. However, soon after my arrival we learned that Bird, a seasonal fisherman, would be leaving on a 3-month voyage in a few days time. At first, I thought perhaps this was a portrait to pursue upon my next trip out, but as the alpenglow took hold of the evening and the smoke from the steadily growing fire wafted spectral gestures through the air, I knew the timing was right.
From the time I arrived in Alaska, Nate had been excited to bring me to the dump. “Sometimes you’ll see an eagle perched atop a mountain of broken glass! You’ll want a photo.” The potential of this image intrigued me, and on my last day in Homer we stopped by hoping to get lucky with a picture. We found no trash nested eagles that day, but this heap of withering automobiles caught my eye. At first, I wasn’t sure how the image fit into the broader project, but as I stood and composed the shot, Nate mentioned that he was considering applying to work at the dump in the future. “You get first pick of anything that’s dropped off.”
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