MFA to GSU: Joshua Dudley Greer

Faculty Work Then & Now


American Histories
MFA Thesis Work

Our perception of the American landscape is inevitably informed by events that are said to have taken place on a given site, just as our understanding of history is influenced by the landscape that is its necessary backdrop. Contemporary cinema has come to play an increasingly important role in complicating these associations by shifting the textual representation of history to a Hollywood simulacrum that combines mythology, fiction and entertainment with notions of truth, historical record and the illusion of reality. American Histories is a series of color photographs that explores this progressively complex relationship between landscape, history and film.

Each photograph in the series looks at a specific site that is tied to a particularly significant or disturbing event. These events are culled from history as well as cinema and are comprised of both fact and fiction, or some combination of the two. The accompanying text details the events associated with each place in a manner that invokes reportage and the objective tone of historical analysis. Issues of conflict and violence in our history and culture are prevalent throughout the text but the places that remain are at times quiet, seductive and ignorantly beautiful. By combining film narratives with historical events into a classical, documentary format of text and image, the series addresses photography’s role in the entanglement between media, representation and truth.

Maplewood Drive and Old Centreville Rd, Manassas, Virginia, 2008
On the night of June 23, 1993, John Wayne Bobbitt came home late after a night of drinking. John’s wife Lorena was awoken by his attempts to initiate sexual intercourse but she complained about his unwillingness to allow her to orgasm and refused his advances. Falling in and out of consciousness, John then allegedly forced her to have sex. Afterwards, John passed out on the bed while Lorena went to the kitchen to get a drink of water. She noticed a large kitchen knife on the counter and with thoughts of previous abuse in her head, Lorena grabbed the knife and proceeded to the bedroom where she violently cut off more than half of John’s penis.
Lorena immediately drove off with John’s penis, which she threw out of her car window into this grassy area less than a mile from their home. She later gathered herself and called 911, informing authorities of the situation and the location of the penis. John, who was severely injured and bleeding, was helped by a friend to a nearby hospital. Teams of police and fire department personnel were dispatched to the scene to recover the penis and after a nine-hour surgery, John’s penis was successfully reattached.
Lorena Bobbitt was tried for malicious wounding in 1994 but was found not guilty by reason of temporary insanity. After his surgery, John Wayne Bobbitt made a brief living as a porn star, appearing in such films as Frankenpenis and John Wayne Bobbitt – Uncut.
Century Plaza Towers, 2040 Avenue of the Stars, Century City, California, 2008
On June 17, 1972, five men were arrested inside the offices of the Democratic National Committee on the sixth floor of the Watergate Hotel in Washington D.C. The burglary aroused suspicion and media attention because of the unusual circumstances of the crime. The men were found with $2,300 in sequential hundred-dollar bills, walkie-talkies, lock picks, door-jimmys, a police scanner, two cameras along with 40 rolls of unused film and sophisticated recording devices. One of the men was a former CIA agent and current security guard for President Nixon’s Committee to Re-elect the President. Notebooks found on two of the men contained a phone number followed by the inscription ‘W House.’
Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein researched the case and wrote coverage of the story over a period of two years eventually uncovering evidence that implicated members of the Nixon administration. Woodward’s secret source for much of the information was a highly placed official within the Executive Branch, code name Deep Throat. Only Woodward knew of the man’s identity and the two would meet in this parking garage to relay information.
Venice Beach, California, 2008
In 1998, a pickup basketball game on these courts turned into a confrontation between a group of neo-Nazis and African Americans. Derek Vinyard, a young skinhead leader, stepped into the game and led his team to victory, taunting his opponents with a swastika tattoo on his chest. The black men were told to leave and never come back.
Later that night, a number of black players attempted to steal Vinyard’s truck outside his home. Vinyard drew his pistol, shooting and killing one man while injuring a second. Wounded and bleeding, the young man tried to crawl away but Vinyard forced him to open his mouth onto a concrete curb where he kicked in the back of his head, killing him instantly. Derek Vinyard was sentenced to just three years in prison for voluntary manslaughter.


Somewhere Along the Line

From 2011 to 2017 I traveled over 100,000 miles by car, focusing my camera on the massive network of superhighways that has become ubiquitous throughout the United States. Whether located within an urban environment or leading out to the last remnants of wilderness, these roadways have been designed to suppress any distinguishing characteristics of place and instead construct a familiar and uniform system of functional spaces built for mobility and productivity. Rather than moving quickly through these spaces however, I have made the decision to slowly and deliberately dwell within them, looking for unforeseen moments of humor, pathos and humanity. My photographs look at the road as a stage where narratives play out and opposing forces often collide. The boundaries that line these landscapes, whether real or imagined, are examined by looking at the separations between public and private space, privilege and need, the individual and the collective, and the countervailing ideas of home and escape. The resulting compilation of photographs depicts the state of America’s infrastructure as a cultural indicator of its economic, social and environmental circumstances.

Interstate 10, near Goodyear, Arizona, 2014
Interstate 70, near Salina, Kansas, 2014
Interstate 75, near Lenox, Georgia, 2014

Find more of Joshua’s work on on his website.