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Driftless: Stories from Iowa

Affectionate but unpitying black-and-white images capture the tough existence of people still living in declining rural areas of Iowa.

As Tumara Gosnell bluntly puts it, “There’s only three things you can do in Iowa: drink, do drugs, or have sex.” She is a former barfly who swapped life in the Iowan countryside for the big city — and she is not the only one, not by a long shot.

Rural America is emptying out and a way of life is disappearing. This web documentary by photographer Danny Wilcox Frazier, who comes from Iowa City, is a portrait in six vignettes of “those who were left in the wake of outmigration,” as Frazier himself describes them in the accompanying interview.

Frazier has been working on a series of photographs entitled Driftless: Stories from Iowa for several years. This film of the same name tells the backstories, shows the making process, and is itself part of the series.

Sometimes expressly diffuse, sometimes mercilessly sharp, Frazier’s tightly framed black-and-white photos and static shots capture the harsh realities of existence in an area that is losing its lifeblood; nostalgia for a faded glory is permeated with the knowledge that there is nothing left to stay for.

Butcher Joe Kuba understands all too well why his children don’t want his life: “It makes an old man out of you fast.”

Driftless: Stories from Iowa from MediaStorm on Vimeo.

Project details

Year of development :2009
Created by:Danny Wilcox Frazier
With:MediaStorm
Full project credits

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