2019 - Ongoing
In What Had Happened, Dannielle Bowman returns to where she grew up (the Baldwin Hills, Inglewood, and Crenshaw neighborhoods of Los Angeles, CA), opening her own history to ask questions about the role location and landscape play in personal evolution.
For this ongoing work, Bowman photographs the homes and surrounding landscapes of Black Americans who moved to the aforementioned areas of Los Angeles during The Great Migration, a period from the 1920s to the 1970s during which roughly 6 million Black people moved out of the southern U.S. to different regions of the country. Inspired by her own family’s history and its connection to countless other family histories, Bowman looks at how and where cultural artifacts of Black American life and the Great Migration exist today.
In making the images, Bowman works between construction and observation. She prioritizes making different types of images: landscapes, portraits (or something like them), and more abstract images. Through these approaches, Bowman brings together multiple ways of looking at the world she photographs in order to speak to the complexities and nuances of that world.
What Had Happened is not focused on one particular person, family or home. The images were made around multiple homes with different people, unrelated to one another. In taking this approach, Bowman is focused less on documenting and more on a visual and conceptual investigation of how a culture travels over space and time and shows up in the present.
These images recall the events, objects, and sites that mold us in order to explore themes of displacement, family history, cultural signifiers and notions of home. Bowman asks how we remember what has marked us in a place we once called home and how that place informs who we are in the present. Memories of place are nuanced, emotional, atmospheric, historical, and geographical; when we return to these sites they are never exactly as remembered and fail to fully complete the retelling of history.
In these photographs the passing of time reveals itself in the shadows drifting over a backyard, in a carpeted staircase worn by years of feet treading its fibers, in the shifting earth cracking the sidewalk that lays over it. The double exposures and repeated imagery draw attention to the way that time alters our perception of locations, people and events. Collectively the images render parts of ourselves and the details of place we once called home lost to time.
This project is comprised of large format (4x5) film photography that is scanned and digitally printed.