Words by Adam Ryan

Photography is about power, and a camera creates a struggle between those on either side of the lens. The photographer’s natural advantage in this struggle (almost always having the upper hand) leads to a common conclusion: he or she takes more than what is given, and the subject is left diminished in some small way. Matthew Genitempo is an exception to that rule, and we are all better for it.

Genitempo’s project, Jasper, reminds me of the photographer’s insoluble moral obligation to give more than one takes. His photographs are a gift well received. They are fragile, but perceptive. They are quiet, yet forceful. They are gentle and kind, without losing their connection to the real. They are as heavy as the mountains, and deep as sleep.

Jasper: Matthew Genitempo

The men in my photographs have chosen to live a life sequestered in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas and Missouri.

By capturing the foggy landscapes, cluttered interiors, and the rugged men that are tucked away in the dark woods, the project explores my fascination with running away from the every day. The project bounces between fact and fiction, exhibiting the reality and myths of what it means to be truly apart from society.

During my time making Jasper I was obsessed with the poet and land surveyor, Frank Stanford. He made his work in the Ozarks and his poetry shaped my view during my time there. I couldn’t escape his hold on me. This is a great description of Stanford’s work written by Steve Stern: “He pressed his poems on us like snapshots of an unnamed country… They were photographs of hallucinations which, conjured into existence, seemed always to have been, and we recognized them as the long-lost fragments of our memories. Frank never seemed to have anything particular to prove. Yet he showed up his poems as a kind of evidence, as if, on some ordinate survey of Arkansas or the soul, he’d located a spot equidistant from heaven and hell.”

Matthew Genitempo

Matthew Genitempo is an American photographer and book publisher currently living and making work in Marfa Texas. He received his MFA in photography from the University of Hartford. Matthew was recently selected as one of PDN’s 30 Emerging Photographers and received the LensCulture Emerging Photographer Award.

Adam Ryan

Adam Ryan is Assistant Curator at SFMOMA, San Francisco where he focuses on the maintenance, growth, and exhibition of SFMOMA’s permanent collection of photographs.