Edgar G Praus

Over the last four decades, I have photographed the lesser-known corners of the American highways and cities. Though I began with landscape and architectural work and tagged myself as “Photography with the Presence of People Without People”, my most recent work has been exploring the states of Mississippi and West Virginia and their inhabitants. In the mid 2000’s I also spent three summers photographing street people in Buffalo, New York.

In Mississippi, like Walker Evans and others before me, I seek to make a record of a rapidly changing and disappearing America both to bring it forth in the current dialogue and to preserve a document for the future. My images are made in the communities on the edges of normalized commercial society. These spaces often feel timeless, are rough and handmade, transient, ephemeral and mutable. I gravitate to buildings that tell their stories through careful hand lettered sighs and advertisements, ramshackle add-ons and rough carpentry. The cleanest, easiest to read portions of my landscapes are a series of paintings on the sides of a few buildings that depict clean interiors and domesticity; a fantasy that is neat and tidy whereas the real world is not.

In these communities, there is no evidence of the commercialized world, no Walmart, no strip malls. Rather there are “old- fashioned” storefronts with “Yes, We’re Open” signs crammed into dirty windows lined with bottles and debris in an almost desperate attempt to counteract the feeling of an abandoned space. There is a lack of structured society making the spaces organic in their lack of rigidity. While there is some sense of human influence and care in the images of storefronts, the structures in my frames are vacant and crumbling. Doors and windows are missing, and trash is strewn about. It is hard to say if they were abandoned decades ago or last week. These communities often collide with busy city centers but go largely unnoticed. In my travels to the same locations over a span of time they seem to exist until they are suddenly swallowed up by decay or gentrification.

Artist’s Statement