This new issue of Urbanautica for Manfrotto School of Xcellence is taken from the special interview by Dawn Roe with Jason Reed. Jason Reed holds a BA in Geography from the University of Texas-Austin and an MFA in Photography from Illinois State University. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Photography at Texas State University and founding co-director of Borderland Collective, a participatory art program that has worked with more than 100 youth across the American Southwest over the last four years.
«I started making photographs during my youth, alongside my dad (a serious photo enthusiast) on our annual family road trips across the American West. But I was not really attuned to photography as anything except a tool to explore, understand, and remember the landscape we were driving through and engaging with. It was about making pictures of landscapes I thought were interesting, I suppose so I could look at them longer. Now that I say that, it seems my practice really hasn’t changed much.
When I went to college I ended up in the geography department because my interest at the time was really history and landscape, not photography. I realized quickly though, that photography was intrinsically linked to geography, and during my senior year my professors encouraged that I use my interest in photography as a means of geographic research. My decision to pursue an MFA came from a feeling that I had not yet resolved how I was supposed to approach being a geographer that wanted to make pictures instead of write papers. In many ways my non-art background helped me in graduate school, because I knew how to write, research, and discuss theory. But the rigor of constantly making and sharing pictures in such a critical space definitely took some adjustment».
«Borderland Collective is a social art practice that facilitates projects geared around the idea of collaborative creation. We work with teachers, youth, families, and other artists to explore the American cultural landscape, with the goal of creating an archive of imagery that provides an inclusive representation of our time and place. This idea partly grew out of my work as an AmericCorps outreach teacher in Albuquerque, where I worked with public school teachers to develop a photo project with youth at the Native American Charter Academy. Though it also developed in collaboration with Ryan Sprott, a life long friend who was looking for a way to creatively engage his high school students in West Texas. Together we developed a way to bridge art and education creating both a catalyst for student success and a meaningful project about the cultural identity of the places we were working. It is important to note, that we were greatly influenced by the work Wendy Ewald had been doing since the 1970s with young people across the country and wanted to find a way to mimic that effort in our homeland».
«In the end I think one of the most valuable things art can provide is space and opportunity for exchange, dialogue, and critical analysis. Working collaboratively provides that not only in the final outcome of a show or book, but also in the process of making work. Also working in such a way, I am forced to be accountable to the other people of the group, so I am naturally more thoughtful and aware of every small thing I do, which ends up benefiting, even if subconsciously, my individual work».