Morning fog obscures houses on Friday, March 23, 2012 in Webster City, IA.

Patty sits at C&C American Tap, a local bar, on Saturday, July 14, 2012 in Webster City, IA.

Girls watch the Hamilton County Fair Parade on Monday, July 23, 2012 in Webster City, IA.

The closed down Electrolux factory after a thunderstorm on Saturday, July 28, 2012 in Webster City, IA.

Lloyd Heslop looks at his belongings scattered in the yard after being evicted from his apartment on Monday, July 16, 2012 in Webster City, IA.

A man detassles corn in a field on Tuesday, July 17, 2012 near Webster City, IA. The seasonal job, which used to employ mostly local children, has increasingly been taken over by Mexican immigrants.

Girls play with a found feather and trampoline in their back yard on Sunday, April 28, 2013 in Webster City, IA.

Girls prepare to perform a dance routine before the coronation of the Hamilton County Fair Queen on Wednesday, July 24, 2013 in Webster City, IA.

Donovan Nokes closes up his hunting blind after an unsuccessful afternoon waiting for deer on Monday, December 5, 2011 in Webster City, IA.

Jesse Smith ice fishing at Briggs Woods pond on Sunday, January 19, 2014, in Webster City, IA.

Jesse Hubbard, James Hill, and Riley Jensen play with toy guns on Tuesday, July 17, 2012 in Webster City, IA.

A dog is fenced in a yard on Monday, November 12, 2012 in Webster City, IA.

The door to an abandoned house is sealed with a board on Thursday, January 16, 2014, in Webster City, IA.

Tim Hodges drives his wife’s car around town on Wednesday, November 30, 2011 in Webster City, IA.

Bryan Dayton takes a handgun to shoot a trapped raccoon, which he will sell for fur, on Saturday, November 17, 2012 in Webster City, IA.

A raccoon, trapped in a snare by Bryan Dayton, awaits its fate on Saturday, November 17, 2012 in Webster City, IA.

Joe McFarland, left, takes a picture as Steve McFarland watches a bonfire burn in his back yard on Sunday, March 25, 2012 in Webster City, IA.

Bailey Morton, followed by her date Trevor Carlson and friend Cole Hilpipre, leaves for her senior prom on Saturday, April 27, 2013 in Webster City, IA.

Aimee Jo Kelly lays on a chair during a party on Saturday, November 17, 2012 in Webster City, IA.

Charlene Worrick retrieves recently painted ice skates hung out to dry on Monday, July 16, 2012 in Webster City, IA.

Lexey Worrick sits on her swing set on Sunday, April 28, 2013 in Webster City, IA.

Alazar “Junior” Soto lies in the Des Moines River while tubing on Sunday, July 15, 2012 in Lehigh, IA.

Trish Backer holds her pet albino raccoon Reba in her kitchen on Sunday, November 11, 2012 in Webster City, IA.

Tony Rexroat sits on the floor crying after a long night of drinking on Thursday, July 25, 2013 in Webster City, IA.

A girl lies on top of a car on Saturday, July 21, 2012 in Webster City, IA.

People gather to watch the races at the Hamilton County Speedway on Thursday, July 26, 2012 in Webster City, IA.

Amanda Wasko stands in her friend’s garden as a storm approaches on Monday, July 22, 2013 in Webster City, IA.

A girl exercises her horse at the Hamilton County Fair on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 in Webster City, IA.

Kate Quimby, who performs as Tickle the Clown, puts her clowning equipment in her car on Sunday, January 19, 2014, in Webster City, IA.

Steve McFarland lies with his daughter Alanna, left, and son Joe, center, under blankets on their back deck on Saturday, July 28, 2012 in Webster City, IA.

Cody Sleiter, age 17, lays in the grass after being suspended from school on Wednesday, April 24, 2013 in Webster City, IA.

Alazar “Junior” Soto, left, and Steve McFarland smoke and drink in the truck on the way back from tubing on the Des Moines River on Sunday, July 15, 2012 in Webster City, IA.

Patrons dance as Eric Freeman plays guitar behind Carpy’s Ale House on Saturday, April 27, 2013 in Webster City, IA.

Joe McFarland walks an old tandem bicycle to the front of his house on Monday, July 23, 2012 in Webster City, IA.

The Beating of the Heart by Brendan Hoffman

In March 2011, Webster City’s main employer, Electrolux, shut down and moved to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The company and its predecessors had made washing machines in the small Iowa town of 8,000 under various brand names since 1937, and then it was gone. Nearly all of a workforce that once topped 2,000 was laid off. It’s not the first community to end up in a tough spot, and it won’t be the last.

This is a story we’ve heard before. Yet the lack of novelty in the primary storyline has allowed me to direct my gaze elsewhere, beyond a simple chronicling of events. Webster City isn’t unique, but as an anecdotal emblem of contemporary small-town Midwestern life, it’s fascinating. Over the past several years, through some dozen trips, I’ve embedded myself in daily life in Webster City, striving to capture the character-driven drama and vague sense of anxiety common to such places. It’s a middle-class town slowly losing that distinction. This project is in part an attempt to understand the changes taking place among the middle class in America today, as the Great Recession fades while few feel confidence in their economic future.

It’s this uncertainty that seems to undermine the quality of life we all seek. Many of my pictures depict longstanding routines and daily activities with an implied or inherent transience, highlighting the fact that that any comfort in the present suggests no assurance of the future.

Yet despite my efforts, that may not be what is really reflected in my photographs. If I’m honest with myself, what kept drawing me back was the chance to live in an alternate reality. What I see in my own pictures is an outsider’s view, the perspective of someone who enters the town like putting on a costume as I attempt to become a local for a week or two at a time, all the while knowing I will leave again. My affection for Webster City is real, but very different, from what would be felt by someone who lived there all his life. At heart, this project is a complicated way of asking “what if”? What if I had been raised in such a place—a small rural town in the Midwest, instead of an East Coast suburb—with no plan or desire to leave? What would I have missed? Or gained?

Dominic Bracco II Currently in Mobile: +521.551.648.9870
Melanie Burford Currently in Mobile: +47.418.5547
Brendan Hoffman Currently in Mobile: +380.50.700.6256
Katie Orlinsky Currently in Mobile: +1.917.597.0131
Pete Muller Currently in Mobile: +254 786 546 539
Christian Rodriguez Currently in Mobile: +54.11.240.159.01
Lance Rosenfield Currently in Mobile: +1.512.569.0432
Max Whittaker Currently in Mobile: +1.530.218.4219
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