A few weeks ago I was visiting my mentor in his art studio during some downtime, and we got into a discussion about my artwork and its future. By this moment in time I had already completed my work for "Start The Fire" and was feeling a bit rustic on having any new ideas. My mentor, who has over a decade of experience on me as an artist, suggested I do something he did long ago for his own work. "You need to go into the ghetto." He said. "No one will bother you there. Just do your thing and be cool. Nobody will give you shit."
At first I was a bit skeptical at his advice, but I knew deep down he was right. My photography and lightpaintings had mostly come from the core sections of Jackson, which are predominantly white. I initially was a little nervous going into the "rough" sections of town. Jackson has a reputation for having a high rate of violent crime occurring in comparison to its population, and I personally had some of my personal belongings stolen on more than one occasion. In the end, though I followed his advice and made sure in doing so all of my equipment and belongings would be extra secure.
The following weekend I had spent wandering around the city. I had previously lived in South Jackson as a child, so I knew that area fairly well, however I felt that in order to grow as an artist I needed to immerse myself in a setting in which I was completely unfamiliar. From around eleven that morning until two in the afternoon I spent hours wandering around the western part of Jackson, which I decided would be my primary search area. I had heard rumors that decades ago West Jackson was a thriving industrial center within the city, but over time many of the businesses and people had packed leaving for greener pastures elsewhere. Ideally I wanted to find one of these past relics; one of these ancient megaliths from another eon. Hungrily, I searched the city with little success until as I was driving I had a sudden instinct to turn left and break my monotonous drive. Suddenly, after my car had finished making its turn, I found what I had been looking for all weekend: The Tower of the Fallen God.
Immediately after viewing the giant, brick smokestack I pulled over my car. The tower was several hundred yards away, and I had to make my way through very tall grasses in order to reach its base. Wading through the grass, I found many relics leading up to the brick smokestack. There were broken concrete columns, slabs of old parking lots, and gigantic mounds of bricks stacked on top of one another. As a photographer I new I had stumbled upon what I call a "holy grail." This was a site where I could be free to indulge my creative abilities in ways I had never even begun to think would be possible within Jackson!
My imagination was firing with tons of ideas as I made my way to and around the smokestack. "This spot would be good for spinning fire. Over here I could trace some light graffiti along these iron rods. Right in front of these bricks would be perfect to have a model posing." My thoughts had been filled with such amazing ideas within so short a time my body had begun to shake with giddiness like a child opening their Christmas gifts from Santa. I needed to keep exploring, and as I did I noticed another structure in the distance. This time I found a two story building of considerable size sitting in the middle of this field. My legs carried me swiftly towards the abandoned rectangle building, and in no time I had arrived to its worn exterior.
Stepping inside the dusty old building I instantly felt goosebumps popping up on my arms. This place had evidently been empty for some time, and there was no guarantee as to who or what I may find within its bowels. Once I had made my way past the entrance there was so little visible light I had to use my phone's flashlight in order to see. I made my way down a narrow hallway and into a wide, open chamber with a door on the far wall. Walking around the room, I noticed broken glass on the floor and old wires hanging from the ceiling. Aside from these remains, the room had been stripped bare of anything and I was left feeling curious as to what was behind the door.
Taking a deep breath, and grabbing the knife in my pocket very tightly, I pushed open the door and entered the next dark room. It was very similar in manner to the place before in that it had been stripped of materials, though I noticed at the far end there was a brick wall which looked like the borders of a restroom area. I made my way towards those white bricks, and found an opening with sunlight pouring through. Part of the wall had been burst through, and my suspicion was proven correct when I noticed all the urinals which had been illuminated by the natural light seeping through the hole. Apparently this building was part of a workers' barracks and I had stepped into one of their most private habitations.
While I wanted to keep exploring the factory site daylight was beginning to wane, and I began to worry about my car being parked so far away. I decided it would be best to head back to Base 1, and do a bit of research on the area before the next time I would come to explore. Stepping carefully, I exited the work barracks to find it was only about two hundred feet away from the nearby road. Instead of driving back the way I came, I would go toward this direction in my car and see if I could find a concealed spot where I could park and not be disturbed or seen.
Half an hour later I was back inside my car and I drove down the side road toward the barracks. "Grass, grass, grass....grass.....grass.......EUREKA!" Right as I was about to drive outside of the factory's proximal area I found a clearing up a small hill where I could safely park my car, and the best part was that it was only about a two minute walk from the building's entrance. The Fallen God had looked down upon me with blessings from his great tower.
That day I had been fortunate enough to find one of the greatest photography sites I had ever stumbled upon within the city of Jackson, Mississippi. Until that point, I hadn't the slightest idea that there existed a place which could provide my photography with so many urban elements. This is the kind of place photographers such as myself dream of finding and being able to lay claim to as using it for their art. With the factory now at my disposal a new day, and as I would find out later a new night, had begun to manifest over the horizon.