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boondock | Andrew Waits

Boondock is a photographic investigation into a population for whom a vehicle represents not just a mode of transportation, but a means of shelter and sustainability. It seeks to reveal a subculture whose existence isn’t carved into the landscape of America, but a mirage upon it. Surveying both urban and remote locations to provide a unique juxtaposition of vehicle, owner, and environment, it explores ways in which survival dictates a fluidity of location, interconnectivity, and the concept of home.

Four years ago I received a call informing me that my cousin had taken someone’s life and had then taken his own. In the unfolding grieving process, my aunt and uncle struggled with the judgment of their small community, and the confines of a house filled with memories of their only child. They decided to leave. In response to tragedy, it was a choice they made to survive. They left their Eastern Washington home in an RV and have lived out of it ever since.

This choice to move on and create a new home fascinated me. I wanted to explore the variety of circumstances that lead to this reliance on vehicle for sustainability and how it can influence or challenge the concept of home. I bought an RV of my own and spent the next two years periodically travelling the western United States seeking out the stories of individuals who rely on a vehicle for shelter. What I uncovered over this period I compiled into a collection of images, interviews, and audio titled Boondock.

The images in Boondock contrasts vehicle, owner, and environment focusing on issues of survival, perception, and the ingenuity born from limited physical space.

The variety of circumstance leading to the reliance on vehicle for shelter makes it difficult to define this population. For some, the vehicle as home represents a willing rejection of American dogma, challenging the very meaning of “home” detached from ownership. For others, it’s a necessity brought on by hardship and an inability to attain stability. For many, the vehicle is a home away from home; a temporary reprieve from domesticity confined to a fixed geographic location.

The term boondocking is typically used to describe camping in an undeveloped area without the use of commercial campgrounds and hookups. I decided to employ it as a blanket term to covers all self-sustainable vehicle dwellers regardless of environment. The motivation for doing so grew from the idea that disconnection doesn’t necessitate being in the middle of nowhere. Disconnection can either be a choice, or something forced upon an individual. The decision to survive in reaction to disconnection is what ties together this population and is also what initially drew me to my aunt and uncle’s story. Therefore, rather than attempt to define an archetype, my hope with this work is to exhibit the diversity of this disparate population and offer a vision of survival outside the current narratives of domesticity dominating American life.

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