For much of the 1800’s, freshwater pearls were harvested from the Mississippi River. By 1900, Muscatine, Iowa was known as the Pearl Button Capital of the World. In 1956, J and K Button Co. was established as the first button factory in Muscatine dedicated to making plastic buttons. The switch from pearl to plastic was an attempt at prolonging the industry’s survival. Layered by time, a patina of plastic dust now coats the idle machinery of J and K Button Co. Labour expenses and foreign competition have caused the decline and near demise of the industry. Today, J and K Button Co. is one of only three button manufactures still barely operating in the former pearl button capital. It is run by William (Bill) McGowan, third generation entrepreneur and button-maker.
In this portfolio I examine the emblematic unmaking of America. Mindful of the ephemeral nature of all things, my photographs encompass the Japanese concept of mono no aware, literally “the pathos of things”, a heightened appreciation of their beauty and a gentle sadness at their passing.
The 2017 Calgary Banff Exposure Exhibition Jury selected ten images from the J and K Button Co. portfolio for the Open Call in the Established Photographer category. They are a part of my current photographic project entitled Buffalo Hunting, a four year project involving thirty-five thousand kilometres of driving and photographing on secondary highways, travelling to more than twenty places across North America named Buffalo. Along with J and K Button Co., Buffalo Hunting explores and thematically connects elements of impermanence through a literal narrative structure and the poetic possibilities of the subject matter. Since its inception, the breadth of the project has expanded to include contextual narrative and verse. The ten monochromatic images in the Exposure Exhibition were printed with Piezography carbon pigments on Moab Entrada paper to best exhibit the wide dynamic range of the subject.
The 2017 Exposure Gallery is located in cSpace in the old King Edward School at 1721 – 30th Avenue SW and is open from 9 AM – 5 PM daily.