Turning the pages of Daniel Shea’s Blisner, Il, I think about the way a curve in a road is calculated so we can turn the wheel once and stay on course, the way every building is engineered to support itself. I think about how I take these things for granted.
Blisner, Il is a subtly dramatic book set in Illinois. Shea uses photographs from small towns to story a fictional small town that uses its history as a lifeline, creating a myth of itself and the industry that once made it. The photographs, often juxtaposed or narratively sequenced, portray the kind of mundane details that we ignore in the places we live, and then look back on with nostalgia: statues, objects, insects, birds, and buildings; people pictured in murals, or occasionally living, pausing and looking off somewhere.
If one person believes in a god that no one else believes in, they are usually crazy. If a hundred people believe in that god, they are a cult. If a million people believe in that god, they have a religion. Whether or not the this small town is real, whether or not it is holy, I think this is a book worth believing in.
Below is a recent conversation between Shea and I that I recorded and transcribed, part of an ongoing dialogue that we started in 2010.
Lucas Foglia: I met you as a photographer with a cause.
Daniel Shea: As a photographer with a what?
LF: With a cause. What's the effect of moving to a place like NYC and now traveling around the world to photograph on assignment?
DS: I want to make more work and to maybe, at some point, have a family. That's all I really care about. I don't think about it too much anymore. I used to think about it all the time and used to let it worry me, but at this point I just want to show my work and as long as it's not being used for evil things I kind of let it be.