So what makes Terrance Reimer’s Ohio Country not straight and informative photography about a region of middle America facing socioeconomic change? For one, it is self-aware. The thick black frame of each photograph is a reminder that in fact this is a photograph and the subject matter is to be seen in that context. The tight edit and zine like production quality makes it personal. For everything that exists within this context, then plenty was intentionally left out. Secondly, Ohio Country considers future Ohio Country as much if not more than contemporary or past Ohio Country—commentary more than representation.
A place like Ohio leaves enough space for Ohio Country even if unintentionally, to be political—not necessarily about politicians and constituents but rather, regarding public affair. Like the subject matter in the context of the camera frame, Ohio Country exists in the context of political turmoil in America. These are images of public affair photographed from what happens to be a well representative swing state. A portrait of a young lady seated in a wicker chair—the chair’s crafted style an emblem of the middle and working class—wears a t-shirt which reads “Legalize Gay.” A man’s bare surgery scarred chest juxtaposes a long and empty county road and Reimer’s formal aesthetic and penchant for photographing traditional American industry and vacant shopping malls punctuate Ohio Country as civil. In the twenty included plates and sparing a portrait of a man in his work garb, the region as it is depicted that make up Ohio Country seems largely out of work or if not out of work, perhaps shopping at Wal-Mart—a place ubiquitous to such a region but fully outside of Reimer’s frame. Cities in which Ohio Country was photographed include Columbus, Fostoria, Fremont, Gibonsburg, Helena, Hessville, Mansfield, Marion, Oberlin, Pemberville, and Toledo. A Google search shows approximately one Wal-Mart for each of the eleven towns. By Reimer’s camera, the ratio is about the same for number of vacant factories, mills, or other industrial workplaces. The news recently reported that so called Wal-Mart voters carried Donald Trump during the election and still have a positive opinion of the job he has done as we near his first 100 days in office on a promise of jobs for the middle class.
It is unfair to say as I previously did that the mostly empty towns as portrayed in Ohio Country implies that everyone is at Wal-Mart. But having grown up myself in a region of Mississippi similar in economic status and having needed to purchase whatever sundry after Sunday church let out, the Wal-Mart parking lot might easily lead one to believe that the congregation left the sanctuary to gather for a post-sermon dinner on the grounds amongst the isles of cheap cotton t-shirts and molded plastic kitchen wares. It is accurate however, to say that places like Ohio preserver.
Will the empty warehouses in Ohio Country ever be repopulated? It’s doubtful. Nor will prescient scars fully heal—that line down the center of his chest like that road destination unknown ahead, cuts through the county. People will find work, even if it is at Wal-Mart. Goldman Sachs will get more. This economy will be accepted as the new norm. “[T]hey understand that the fortunate have a right to their fortunes, that the unfortunate have a right to their misfortunes, and that these are equal rights,” writes Wendell Berry with intentional absurdity in his poem The Reassurer. But like something just outside the thick black frame of Reimer’s photographs, a way of living has been left out of the contemporary cultural and industrial landscape of America that is Ohio Country.