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Reviewers Choice Award

Don't Be This Way Forever

Jordan Gale | Iowa, United States

A note from my mother, written over a family photo. Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 2022.

Don't Be This Way Forever, is a visual diary seeking to confront my various close and often tumultuous relationships in my hometown, spanning roughly a decade, before leaving home and during my subsequent visits since. The act of making pictures in this space has been a cathartic process, aimed towards better understanding my past actions and emotions, while attempting to mend the frail relationships I’ve left behind and often return to. 

For most of my life, the concept of home has been a notion I’ve struggled with. I've spent many years trying to put as much distance as possible between myself and the distressing familiarities of home. I grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a relatively small town in Middle America, not far west of the Mississippi River. I grew up an only child in a single-parent home where, more often than not, we struggled to get by. Like many households within my community, money and substance abuse issues were ongoing struggles. I knew at an early age we were poor, and knew of my mother's various drug uses. I felt ashamed of my upbringing, and began to resent the space I was born into, fearing I'd never leave Iowa or make a life of my own. These emotions ultimately caused me to perpetuate my own self-destructive tendencies as a young adult, deepening my anger, anxieties and feelings of stagnancy.

My essay, Don't Be This Way Forever, is a visual diary that confronts my various tumultuous relationships in my hometown, spanning roughly a decade, before leaving home and during my subsequent visits since. The act of making pictures in this space has been a cathartic process, aimed towards better understanding my past actions and emotions, while attempting to mend the frail relationships I’ve left behind and often return to. The photographs don’t always provide answers, but the effort put into making this work sparks conversations, and that is all I can ask for.

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