End of the Road
Photography by Brea Souders and poetry by Lia Purpura
Souders began making the photographs that comprise End of the Road in March 2020 after relocating from Brooklyn to rural upstate New York. The black-and-white photographs capture candid glimpses of visitors walking to the cul-de-sac at the end of a gravel road viewed through the mesh of Souders’ screen door or through curtains of leaves and branches. Her subjects variously walk, rest, hold hands, kiss, and stop to reflect, completing a series of ordinary actions during an extraordinary year.
The sense of time’s passing unfolds in the series through the changing of the seasons and through the contemplative perambulations of Souders’s subjects. Some visitors return to the End of the Road repeatedly, while others make a momentary, but singular, impression. The photographs thus convey a sense of heightened awareness to one’s surroundings and to nature. They also express the longing for human connection that has defined our shared isolation. Each photograph sparks curiosity about the subject, what brought them to the End of the Road, and where they will go from here.
This virtual presentation features images from End of the Road alongside writing by UMBC writer-in-residence Lia Purpura from her book It Shouldn’t Have Been Beautiful (Penguin, 2015). Purpura has noted of this collection of poems, “I am interested in paying attention to the act of looking itself, an act which is almost always full of contradiction, surprise, and mystery.” This statement could equally describe Souders’s photographs, which, through their clandestine framing and sharp observation, elevate quotidian details to totems of coincidence. Likewise, Purpura’s attentive poems abound with incident, engendering expansive ideas from the brief container of their form. Here, the poems and images, selected in collaboration between artist and author, walk together in tandem, illuminating shared themes and inviting additional connections and reflections.
Brea Souders is a visual artist working primarily with photography. She has exhibited in the U.S. and internationally, including solo exhibitions with Baxter St at the Camera Club of New York, Bruce Silverstein Gallery and Abrons Art Center in New York. She has received a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant, a residency with the Millay Colony, and a fellowship with the National Arts Club. Features on her work have been published in the The New Yorker, ARTnews, the Jeu de Paume magazine, and The New York Times. Souders’ work is included in many survey publications, including The Photograph as Contemporary Art (Thames & Hudson); Feelings: Soft Art (Rizzoli) and Photography is Magic (Aperture).
Lia Purpura is the author of nine collections (essays, poems, translations). A National Book Critics Circle Award finalist, she is a Guggenheim, NEA, and Fulbright Fellow, and has been awarded four Pushcart Prizes, among others. Her work appears in The New Yorker, The New Republic, Orion, The Paris Review, The Georgia Review, Agni, Emergence, and elsewhere. She is the Writer in Residence at UMBC, and has taught at conferences, workshops, prisons, and in communities and MFA programs throughout the country. It Shouldn’t Have Been Beautiful (poems) and All the Fierce Tethers (essays) are her latest collections.
A public program will include a conversation between Brea Souders and Lia Purpura, date to be announced.
To celebrate the online exhibit of End of the Road and the collaboration between artist and poet, the AOK Library Gallery has produced a limited edition booklet, End of the Road/ Hope. Designed by Peggy Re, the publication features a selection of images from Souders’s series along with a poem by Purpura. Register here to receive a free copy of End of the Road/ Hope. Booklets will be produced in a limited edition of 500 copies and mailed in May 2021.
Image: Brea Souders, End of the Road 5, 2020. Courtesy of the artist.