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Souders began making the photographs that comprise End of the Road in March 2020 while living in rural upstate New York. The black-and-white photographs capture candid glimpses of visitors walking to the cul-de-sac at the end of a gravel road viewed through the mesh of a window screen or through curtains of leaves and branches. Her subjects variously walk, rest, hold hands, kiss, and stop to reflect, completing a series of ordinary actions during an extraordinary year. Photographing these strangers—who became unknowing companions—was an almost daily ritual for the artist, generating creative inspiration during a year spent sheltered in place.

The passage of time unfolds in these photographs through seasonal changes and through the contemplative perambulations of Souders’s subjects. Leaves sprout and sunlight casts bold shadows, while in turn, sweaters and mittens replace airy dresses and shorts. Some visitors return to the End of the Road repeatedly, while others make a momentary, but singular, impression. The photographs thus convey a heightened awareness to one’s surroundings and to nature that has become a common experience during the pandemic. In their intimacy, they express the longing for human connection that has defined our shared isolation. Each photograph is a chance encounter that sparks curiosity about the subject, what brought them to the End of the Road, and where they will go from here.

This virtual presentation features images from End of the Road alongside poems by UMBC writer-in-residence Lia Purpura from her book It Shouldn’t Have Been Beautiful (Penguin, 2015). Purpura has noted of this collection of poems, “I am interested in paying attention to the act of looking itself, an act which is almost always full of contradiction, surprise, and mystery.” This statement could equally describe Souders’s photographs, which, through their clandestine framing and sharp observation, elevate quotidian details to totems of coincidence. Likewise, Purpura’s attentive poems abound with incident, engendering expansive ideas from the brief container of their form. Here, photographs and poems, selected in collaboration between artist and author, walk together in tandem, illuminating shared themes and inviting additional connections and reflections.

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