Happy Valley explores the meaning of family, religion, relationships, and redemption through the life of my Mormon relatives in Utah.
WHAT IS HAPPY VALLEY?
Happy Valley is the nickname for Utah Valley (or Utah County), located about 50 miles south of Salt Lake City and home to Brigham Young University in Provo. Happy Valley is an interesting and unique place. About 70% of the population of over 500,000 are baptized into one faith, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), otherwise known as Mormons. This is the main branch of Mormonism, and they do not practice polygamy. Demographically, the majority of people are white and there’s a rather large middle-class. Happy Valley also experiences high levels of suicide, depression, and divorce, which offers some insight into how Happy Valley got its ironic name.
WHY DID YOU START THIS AND WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO SAY?
Happy Valley offers a rare and intimate glimpse into Mormon culture, which is often misunderstood and shrouded in mystery, by looking at just one family, my own. It began almost ten years ago in response to my own experience growing up as a teenager here. I was raised in a very religious and orthodox Mormon home that was also quite chaotic. When I was fourteen, two families were joined together by marriage to form a household of seventeen (17) teenagers and children vying for personal space and hot showers. Feeling repressed and unsettled, I searched out other ideas and philosophies. I began reading social psychologist Erich Fromm, 19th-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, and French existentialists Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, among others. My family was quite dismayed (to say the least) when I left the faith at about the age of 16.
In college, I discovered photography and I immediately started to document my siblings and their young children in the same place that had once been so poignant and emotional for me. Struggles with family, Mormonism, and life in Utah as a teen unconsciously bled into and informed the pictures I took of them. Photography directly linked my past with their present and played a cathartic role; it allowed me to strengthen family ties, reconnect with loved ones in a new way and thereby mend family wounds.
Happy Valley has become a compelling, emotional and personal family history. It grapples with the cultural, familial, and religious residue of my upbringing by focusing on the everyday moments of my siblings and their children. However, Happy Valley is not only about my family. It explores the meaning of family, relationships, parenthood, childhood, religion, identity and finding one’s place in the world. These issues are universal, profoundly affecting all of us, and Happy Valley provides unique insight into these issues and ourselves as well.
WHAT DO YOU NEED FROM US?
I envision this project as a multi-part series and in 2012 I will complete the first chapter in the history of Happy Valley. But I need your help! I plan to take two trips during the next year (probably late spring and fall) for a few weeks each trip. Using a mixture of portraiture and reportage, I will focus on revealing everyday moments of affection, reflection, frustration, isolation, devoutness, and quirkiness in order to broaden the project’s scope and bring this leg of the project to completion. But it's not cheap: multiple round-trip airfares, a lot of medium-format film (yes, I still shoot film!), photo supplies, transportation, film developing, scanning costs, printing costs, and other expenses. I anticipate that Happy Valley will one day be published as a book and accompanied by exhibitions.
Whether you're Mormon, Buddhist, Jewish, or atheist, I hope Happy Valley speaks to everyone about fundamental aspects of our shared human experience in a very personal and insightful way. Ultimately, this project is about all of us. I hope you find that a cause worth supporting.
Please note: Kickstarter is as an "all or nothing" funding-raising platform. The project is funded only if 100% of the goal is met. So it's crucial to spread the word. Please email your friends, family and colleagues, and post to your social networks. Follow my twitter and facebook page too. :-)
WHAT PRINTS WILL I GET?
Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.