I grew up as a military brat in the 1960s and 70s, moving from house to house, state to state, until, by the age of fourteen I had attended over 20 schools, and lived in almost as many houses. I formed a fascination with the vast and changing cultural landscape, often viewed from the backseat of a car on the way across the United States. I had to make friends fast so I learned early to find a common thread with other kids, but I always felt a deeper connection to the landscape itself. Often, after six months, or, sometimes as much as a year later, we would pack up the house and move again, starting from scratch. It was all I knew, so moving didn’t necessarily make me sad…it was a chance to reinvent myself – to be better and do things differently in a new place.

The camera allows me to edit the environment, choosing fragments of a culture that is quickly losing its foothold on the landscape as it becomes engulfed by Wal-Mart, strip malls and cookie-cutter housing developments. These fragments are a connection to a past – both my own as I remember those highways of my childhood, and those of our country in a simpler, pre-digital era. The beltway series is a representation of that changing landscape through the exploration of the housing developments around the Washington, D.C. area; vast landscapes of tract houses covering what was quite recently, farmland.

I visited the Beltway area several times over the course of three years. I was constantly surprised at the sheer scale of the housing developments that dominate the landscape. The photographs document the sites, and they represent an examination of what happens to scale and perspective, and the flattening of space when the camera translates the landscape into a two-dimensional form. The images are 20 x 24 Fujichrome direct positive prints.

Madeline Wilson