/18 Family

Beth Yarnelle Edwards

Suburban Dreams

In 1997 I began photographing in the suburbs of Silicon Valley, where I had lived for many years. These suburbs are a physical embodiment of the American Dream as it has often been represented—a place where natural beauty intersects with opportunities in high-tech industry, an increasingly diverse yet predominately affluent population, and access to nearby cultural centers.

Although I started my project with friends and neighbors, I quickly found myself photographing households several degrees removed. These were strangers introduced to me by people I had already photographed. Eventually the majority of my subjects were people I had never met before.

My intention is not to critique but to observe. Since I consider myself to be a stalker of the real, I have devised rules to keep my photographs as truthful as possible. Though the events pictured here are staged, they are based on information obtained from interviews with my subjects and always with their knowledge and consent. I don’t pose people but rather set up improvisations and then wait for an authentic expression, posture, or interaction to appear.

Sometimes I’m so interested in what’s going on with people in their homes that I want to know what’s in the closet or under the bed. In my photographs I aspire to tell the viewer not just about what can be seen, but also about things that are hidden and locked away.

I seek out intersections of the mythic and mundane. As I attempt to reveal some basic truth about my subjects, I’m attracted to the peculiar or surprising. When I succeed, I’ve created an image that is both specific and universal.