Nod to the Genesee
Photographs & Words by Amanda Webster
Interview via emails, August 2017
Images from her in-progress series Genesee Fever and a postscript selection of portraiture.
Tell us about your new work, Genesee Fever, what's the story and how did it develop?
I've been working on Genesee Fever for a little over two years now. All of the images are made in Rochester, New York. The title is a nod to the Genesee River, a main artery that runs through the city, and also references a phrase that's been recycled a few times throughout Rochester's history. I first heard it used in a sort of promotional short film put out by a regional gas and electric company in the mid 60's. Supposedly, everyone was overcome with Genesee Fever in the then young and thriving city. Before this, the phrase was used to describe a boom in settlement along the Genesee. Genesee Fever is also what early settlers called a malaria-like disease that allegedly killed all of King's Landing, Rochester's very first settlement in the 1700's. King's Landing Cemetery, a monument to the first family, sits on land managed by Eastman Kodak.
I've been making images with Rochester's history, the stories I've collected, and it's current state in mind, and hope to structure a sort of dream-like journey throughout the city, using the Genesee as a guiding force.
What compels you to make artwork with photography?
To me, photography is the closest I can get to objective visual storytelling. I prefer most things to be based in fact, and that's what comforts me about the medium. That said, I don't believe there is such a thing as an objective image. That's another conversation.
Where were you in your life when you began photographing?
I always struggle with this question, and don't think I have an especially compelling answer. I was young when it became a serious interest, and then I went to college to study it, which is when things really started to click for me. I actually went to school with the intent of becoming a conflict photographer, which didn't really pan out.
What attracts you to portraiture?
Making portraits allows me to interact with would-be strangers. I enjoy the unpredictability of approaching someone I want to make a photograph of and allowing myself to go along for the ride, even if the image isn't successful to me. I once approached someone for a portrait, and ended up at Sears looking at vacuums with them.