Happy Valley is an intimate, strange and quirky photographic family history stretching back over a decade. This on-going series chronicles my nieces and nephews in Utah and Colorado growing up as typical middle-class, suburban white kids. They live a seemingly average and modestly privileged life. Theirs is the cloistered world of stale fast food chains, big-box corporate retailers, and cookie cutter housing developments that epitomize America’s “flyover country.” Here, the receding American Dream offers a safer, quieter future with the promise of ever increasing home values for them and their family.
The outward normalcy, even banality, suburbia provides can be deceiving, however. Suburbia’s attentively manicured lawns mask a family history marred by suicide, affairs, alcoholism, lack of education, mental illness, poverty, and divorce. This rich and complicated historical tapestry permeates the approach and mood of Happy Valley, which embraces the children in all of their mysterious and hilarious beauty. We witness personal fragments of the life stories of my nieces and nephews unfold, strung together by piercing portraits and candid moments. From the uneasy simplicity of childhood through the uncertain complexity of adolescence, they come of age in the changing but sheltered milieu of contemporary suburban America.