Raised on a small family farm in Long Island, Foglia’s respect for the human bond with the land has colored his work to date. In two series included in the exhibition—A Natural Order, 2006-2010, and his current series Frontcountry—Foglia has searched out people who have reinstated or retained their connection to the land as source of food, shelter, and sustenance.
A Natural Order focuses on a network of people who have left cities and suburbs to live off the grid in the southeastern United States. Over a five-year period beginning in the summer of 2006, Foglia met, stayed with, photographed, and recorded copious conversations with people at “rewilding” communities such as Wildroots Earthskills Homestead, at Christian communities such as Russell Creek Community, and with smaller independent groups. His subjects have embraced a self-sufficient lifestyle for varied reasons: religious, environmental or political; liberal or libertarian. They all strive for self-sufficiency and sustainability, but none are totally isolated from the mainstream. As Foglia tells us, “Many have websites that they update using laptop computers and cell phones that they charge on car batteries or solar panels.”
Foglia has produced an intriguing and seductive narrative of green culture, which is meant to draw viewers in and engender interest in self-sustainability. From an urban viewpoint, this can seem exotic—meals of possum stew, venison soaking in a bathrub, a dead bear lying on the ground. Or bucolic—children playing in streams, drinking milk from a goat’s teat, running with goats in a pasture. Other images reflect the tension between “primitive” and “civilized” living.
Frontcountry explores life in mining boom towns and in ranching and farming communities across the western United States. The title refers to the boundary-area where the wilderness meets the outskirts of towns. Foglia pictures families that struggle to make a living as ranching and farming become less lucrative, and industries which take from the land—natural gas, coal, oil and gold, among them—often represent the only alternative source of income in the area.
A graduate of Brown University and the Yale School of Art, Foglia exhibits and publishes his photographs widely. His first monograph, A Natural Order, will be release by Nazraeli Press in April. His work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the Pilara Foundation, the Marguilies Collection, and the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, and has been published in Aperture Magazine, the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post Magazine, and the British Journal of Photography. Foglia lives in San Francisco, where he teaches at the San Francisco Art Institute.
Support for A Natural Order and associated programs has been provided by Dr. Joseph Chazan, the Creative Arts Council, John Nicholas Brown Center for the Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage, the Department of History, and the Center for Environmental Studies, Brown University.