The Beating of the Heart
By Brendan Hoffman
The Beating of the Heart is a dispatch from a place where I both do and do not belong. In 2011 I began photographing in the small town of Webster City, Iowa following the closure of the local Electrolux factory, which moved to Mexico. Many hundreds of people were laid off. I was attracted to narratives of hardship and resiliency, with a desire to create a record of the rippling consequences and how individuals confront circumstances differently.
Very quickly, however, I found myself equally drawn by the simple fact that this most quintessentially American place felt exotic, even foreign. Why? From the standpoint of a journalist, to empathize is critical to honest and informative storytelling. Intellectually, I could understand the people I met; yet emotionally I struggled to bridge the gap. As much as anything, to do so became the goal of my work.
Over the next several years I visited more than a dozen times, photographing life in Webster City as well as my own experiences and reactions to it, trying to better understand the people I now consider friends. These photographs are the accumulated record of my journeys, revealing the degree of my bond.
I approached the project with no specific outcome in mind or list of pictures I must take, instead allowing natural connections to guide my experiences. The resulting images, in both subject and style, raise questions of representation and the presence of biases that seep through what is meant to be a rigorously nonjudgmental depiction. While I previously viewed this as a flaw, I now believe it is an inherent, even critical, part of the work, subtly illuminating the American cultural divide.
2018 Benefit Auction, Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Omaha, Nebraska, USA (group)
2016 America House, Kyiv, Ukraine (solo)
2014 “Of Midwest, By Midwest” Overture Center for the Arts, Madison, Wisconsin, USA (group, curated by Wally Mason, director, Haggerty Museum of Art, Marquette University)
Bringing Rust-Belt Stories to Donald Trump's Inauguration, TIME Magazine
Great Old Days, LensCulture
After Factory Closing, Iowans Live Realities of Global Economy, New York Times Lens Blog
Gorgeous Photos From The Front Lines Of Outsourcing, WIRED Magazine