Since I left my hometown of Nashville at the age of 19, I have traveled and photographed in many places: New York (my home for 20 years), all over America, and locations in Italy, Trinidad and Brazil. Over the years, I realized I was trying to see those places as if I were a native. All that time, Nashville had been in the back of my mind. Then, in 2008, after receiving a Guggenheim Fellowship, I really went back home.
My family is not originally from Nashville. After Thanksgiving dinner 1949, Edwin Tewksbury, my maternal grandfather, a Methodist minister in Auburn, Maine, piled his wife, Edith, and daughter, Priscilla, (my mother, age 10) into his Pontiac and drove 1,400 miles to a new home. He had just been appointed to the Methodist board in Nashville. Not quite 20 years later, five months after my first birthday, my grandfather died on the operating table during a scheduled heart surgery.
Our family seemed to lose momentum. While there were still Sunday afternoon dinners, holidays, birthdays, and attempts to recall a happier time, the family was forever changed. My parents moved us 17 times (often within the same school district), sometimes for a larger place, sometimes because we couldn't afford the rent. Throughout the chaos stood my grandmother's house, the one my grandfather and she had bought brand new in 1952. It became a safe haven for me.
When I returned to face Nashville in 2008 with my 8x10 view camera, another 20 years later, only a paved over modern American city remained, an emotional ghost town: my parents had moved away, my grandmother died in 1994. Since there was no childhood room of mine to return to, I started with a map. I stuck pins in all 17 places where we had lived while I was growing up and drove around old neighborhoods, newly minted suburbs, intersections, crossroads, looking for us. Looking for my unsettled family. Anything that resembled or reminded me of what we looked like when Nashville was my home.
One of the pins represented my grandparents' house (Robin Road, 2008). One day, gathering all my courage, I went up to the front door and rang the doorbell. A young couple, recent graduates from the nearby nursing school now lived in the house. They politely invited me in to look around. It looked smaller.
I took a couple of pictures that day, but the light wasn't right. A few weeks later, during an approaching storm, I raced over and set up my camera in the front yard. As I stood there looking at this house that felt like the set of the movie about my childhood, I thought, "Who is going to care about this? How is a simple picture of this house going to have meaning to anyone other than me?" I let that question hang in the air, and I clicked the shutter. I grasped at least one answer: maybe no one. Collectively—like a relay race in time —my family had traveled 60 years, for one of us to be standing on that lawn, on that day, quietly honoring our journey.
In the end, if someone is looking at my photographs to find out more about Nashville or even me, I imagine they will be disappointed. To my mind, if these pictures succeed, it is because so many make a similar journey back home.
Bio and contact:
Greg Miller (b. 1967. Nashville, Tennessee) received his BFA in Photography from School of Visual Arts in New York, is the recipient of a 2008 Guggenheim Fellowship in photography, and has taught at the International Center of Photography since 2001. Predominantly using an 8x10 view camera, his photography specializes in portraiture, human relationships and a sense of suspended reality. His work has been published in over 100 publications including The New York Times Magazine and TIME and his work has been widely exhibited across the US and abroad including at the Yossi Milo Gallery and Danziger Gallery in New York.
Greg Miller is a Connecticut based photographer.
To view more of his work, please visit his website: gregmiller.com
You can also contact Greg Miller by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org