Erin Dorbin may be behind the camera as overlooked vistas of the rural and historical American landscape take center stage in her work, but the relationship between Erin and the scenes she captures surpasses that of viewer and subject. In “Uncommon Spaces and Everyday Places: Vol. 1” the viewer is taken for a ride down highways and backroads that pumped life and connected small towns to everyday people across the country while Erin shares stories from the folks she’s met at diners and theaters as well as her own tale of growth during her treks.
In the introduction, Erin recounts receiving her first camera and car, two things that have shaped the person she’s become, and somewhat apprehensively admits her dependency on cars despite the privilege they’ve afforded her in experiencing the country. America and privilege are two things often associated with each other, and Erin has exercised hers by documenting the overextended spine of the midwestern and eastern states in a time when American license offers us disposable convenience and the “next best thing.”
Within the 44 pages, Spaces and Places removes us from our current location and transplants us to the abandoned farmhouses of the Midwest, the Launchpad in Wilmington, Illinois and Rosy’s Diner in Escanaba, Michigan, drive-in theaters in New York, and even the former home of Erin’s great-grandmother in Kalamazoo whose connection was unbeknownst to her while she lived in town.
It’s the “personal” that takes brick-and-mortar figures and breathes life into them while the proprietors and citizens of the towns Erin has documented share their stories with her on how the environment built around them has shaped their lives. Through visual story-telling the illustrated cycle of impact that development, neglect and progress have had on the average American lifestyle is shown at what feels like all stages of the metamorphosis.
Erin says the strength of the photographs lies in the zine as a whole rather than in individuals photos, but I disagree. Spaces and Places as a singular piece creates a well-thread story brought together by rich history, curiosity and pride all of which lend a warmth and sense of familiarity to the work. But the individual photos are just as compelling, just as arresting as the message the entire zine sends. They’re photos of an America some may have forgotten or didn’t realize existed. They feel like candid photos of ourselves laughing, crying or looking confused and leave the viewer reaching for the past while contemplating the future. Seeing the impact of people over the landscape instills a sense of responsibility and wonder that couldn’t come from anything besides the crisp and full-bodied work Erin painstakingly created.
"What family history does this house hold?" and "Will travel ever become an important part of the destination again?" are only two questions that Erin presents to the viewer and passenger. Erin has made her way from 15-year-old girl with her first camera to knowledgable and passionate photographer, researcher, documentarian, oral historian and contributor to America’s preservation, which is surely a destination reached as well as a starting point for her future travels and explorations. "Uncommon Spaces and Everyday Places: Vol. 1" makes travel feel like home and transforms each stop along the way into a separate and unique room to explore, relax and plot out our next enterprise.
Purchase "Uncommon Spaces and Everyday Places: Vol. 1" on Erin’s etsy along with her awesome prints and recycled/repurposed clothing!
Stay updated on her work at her website and flickr, and follow her facebook for Hey Man, Cool! Digital History Productions!