Photographs by Patrice Aphrodite Helmar

Patrice Aphrodite Helmar
Organized by Stephan Apicella-Hitchcock

The Fordham University Galleries Online
Fall 2020
Fordham University at Lincoln Center
113 West 60th Street at Columbus Avenue
New York, NY 10023

Polaris and Down By Law are ongoing bodies of work that I began in 2015. My photographs picture, but aren’t limited to, the dark mythology of the American dream and the timeless story of returning home.

In Polaris, characters, archetypes, and dreamlike landscapes inhabit 50 miles on a road to nowhere. I grew up in a working-class family catching salmon on a twenty-six-foot hand troller. My parents taught me where the north star was in the night sky. This was a practical instruction given in case I was ever lost in the woods or at sea. This constellation alluded to in literature, myth, and song has guided seafaring people for time immemorial. These photographs were made in my hometown of Juneau, Alaska. One of the few capital cities in the United States without a road to the outside world.

The photographs made in Down By Law are made as I’m headed home to Alaska in the summertime. In 2016, I bought a car to bring home to my family and drove from the Bronx to Alaska through the southern states and up through British Columbia. It was a roughly 8,000-mile journey that included a grand finale getting the car and myself into town on a ferry.

I was a resident with Antenna Gallery the following year and spent three months living in New Orleans. For the past five years, I’ve photographed rodeos in Texas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. The rodeo is a contemporary colosseum and a meeting place for folks in big cities and small towns.

The history of photography is rife with work made by the upper classes. These visitors often have little connection to people and places they image. In my work, I’m not attempting to document or sensationalize the working class, and queer life. I’m authoring what I would like to exist about my communities in contemporary culture.

I continue to return to the places where I make photographs. Revisiting friends, making new friends, meeting strangers, staying for as many weeks and months as I can before I run out of money or film or both, and letting the spirit move me. —Patrice Aphrodite Helmar

Image caption: Corner House, Juneau, Alaska, 2018

Patrice Helmar
Marble Hill Camera Club