I'm Brenda Ann Kenneally, for the past nine years I've been working in Troy, NY documenting the lives of the women that live on a single block there. My mission is to share with audiences what I have learned about the culture of class separation in the United States and the evolution of social policies that have shaped it.
According to the 2010 census approximately 20% of the households in Troy are headed by single females. The jobs that these women have evolved from the factory work of the industrial revolution that earned Troy its name Collar City to the post industrial service sector jobs like Dunkin' Donuts, McDonalds, and other big box food chains that are now cemented in the American landscape. What has remained constant is that the women I have grown to know in Troy now as the collar laundresses in the 1900's have drawn on their maternal skills to power them through long days at work and huge family demands when they return home.
The Upstate Girls Project is not only a document of the America that we all share with these women, but more importantly a story of the emotional connections that are universal to being human. The quest for love, beauty and belonging is the lifeline that accompanies these women through long bleak grey winters, jail visits to sons and fathers of their children, and long hours at often monotonous jobs. For many of us a successful life is acquiring the emotional fortitude to get from one safe space to the next. The love of a good dog, sparkly underwear from wal-mart, spongebob, coffee, cigarettes, kids and sex...lots of sex are oasis's in the post industrial state of Troy. I understand this because it's the world I grew up in.
I have been working closely with the students at the Rochester Institute of Technology and The Visual Studies Workshop to create a multi-layered online documentary of my work. Together we've been going through hundreds of hours of video, thousands of photographs historical documents and ephemera to bring this project to life. I want to be able to create a platform for deep exploration of these complex issues. My dream is to have an interactive web documentary that can be used by others who share my love of discovering their fellows through storytelling, researchers and social workers, and most of all will be friendly to young people from cultures similar to community that I have been working in in Troy. You will be able to discover the lives of the women I've come to know through videos, photographs, letters, historical documents and scrapbooks on your own time and tie the pieces of their stories together in your own way.
Here is a sample of one of the scrapbooks. Heather became an avid scrapbooker. She made one for herself and then one for her daughter after she was born:
A workshop component of this show began the participatory scrapbook project and a further collaboration with The Rennselaer County Historical Society to include images, letters and ephemera from their collect to situate the contempory documentary work with in the frame work of Troy's rich industrial history. Kickstarter funds will be essential in producing a cohesive interactive vehicle for all the facets of this project.
The second phase of this work will be to open the database of information I have gathered over the past 9 years to those people who can activate change. It is my hope that this project will reach beyond the traditional audience of documentary photography and news and support research and change.
I'm reaching out to you with the hopes that your generosity can help spread this project to your community. I've also asked some of my colleagues who I admire and are photographing women in beautiful and diverse ways to contribute to an amazing portfolio that weave their work together with some of my favorite iconic images of women by women from the Library of Congress Collection. These photographers include Julianna Beasley, Samantha Box, Maisie Crow, Andrea Morales, Emily Schiffer and Zoe Strauss. This portfolio is a limited edition collection of incredible contemporary work.
Here is what is included in this limited edition portfolio:
Upstate Girls is an enormous project, which is why I need your help. Your donations will help access the resources needed to bring it to it's full potential. The students at both RIT and VSW have been hard at work since November 2012 organizing and pre-editing this massive amount of material. We are now at the stage where the students and the project would benefit greatly from collaboration with professional web designers, web programmers, and video editors. These resources take a lot of time and money and without it the project can never be finished.
I have not only become a part of these girls' lives, but I hope you can too. I hope you will give me the time to share these stories with you! Thank you thank you thank you!
I will be sharing wonderful pieces of video from my project each day from the Upstate Girls Vine and adding photos and videos to the Upstate Girls pages on Facebook and Tumblr. For more information and updates on Upstate Girls please join us there!
Upstate Girls has also been featured by the following:
The New York Times Lens Blog
World Press Photo
Photo District News
Picture of the Year International
Risks and challenges
We are editing 16 terabytes of information that I have gathered. There are hundreds of hours of video information. This is a monumental amount of information. We have indexed this material in a basic way but our challenge is to find and use the technology that is capable of managing and sharing this work it in a safe and positive way. We are also interested in innovating on the way stories are told in the digital age and engaging our audience in an authentic way. The money we raise will be used to funding the designers, programmers and editors that will help us meet that goal.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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