“Springfield, Missouri,” he started, “Anywhere, U.S.A. I wanted to go somewhere that I would never think to go, and Springfield seemed like the place.”
“What was it like?” I asked him.
“It was somewhere I could never, ever live. No way in hell! It was the most mundane place on Earth. I would go insane there…”
New York City photographer Eduardo Silva took an interesting approach to challenging himself through his work—he bought a ticket to rural Missouri and tried to make something out of nothing. Equipped with little more than a Nikon FM10 and the ability to go with the flow, Eduardo flew into the countryside and started meeting the locals.
“Right off the bat, the people there were really cool, very open and welcoming,” Eduardo told me. “The first person I met was Ron, a guy who owned this little corner store right down the street from the airport. I simply walked into the corner store and introduced myself to him and his wife Barbara. They sold Pepperidge beef sticks and often worked on barter. Everyone who drove past that store waived to Ron—everyone.”
Having traveled across the country a number of times and being fairly well acquainted with how boring small towns can be, I generally skip them if I’m not purposefully meandering. For Eduardo, the small, middle-of-America town was an eye opener. I asked him to make a comparison between Springfield and New York City.
“It seemed like such a quiet, solitary place,” he explained, “but everyone there was so close that you were never alone. Everyone knew each other. Here in the city, you can be surrounded by people your whole life and still be isolated, whereas there was barely anyone in Springfield and yet no one was ever alone. It was a small, tight-knit community.”
Different locations spawn different creations. Eduardo’s photos capture the calmness of the Midwest, the even keeled existence of everyday life that people in New York rarely seem to experience.
“They don’t have the same stress,” Eduardo said seriously, “they’re definitely not concerned about ‘making it.’ They weren’t missing out on anything. They had a full life, with kids, grandkids, a circle of friends—they’d known the same people their entire lives. And the thing was, they were fine with it. They lived a very simple life.”
One thing both places foster are characters.
“Everyone was full of personality! The second day I was there, I was driving down one of the main thoroughfares when I saw this guy with a crazy beard digging into an old tree stump with a wooden spoon. I didn’t ask him what he was doing—I just stopped my car and introduced myself. He told me he lived in his mother’s house, and that she had died the year before. I could tell he’d been drinking all day because he reeked of rotgut.”
Of course, not everyone is the same, regardless of city or country. Money is still an issue everywhere you go, and success is still measured in any number of different ways. It doesn’t matter if you live in the capital of the world or in the middle of nowhere—the pursuit of happiness is always an individual struggle.
“I met another guy, Dave, who was obviously wealthy. He just wanted to show me all the stuff that he owned. It made me start thinking about the people I had met. Ron from the store had kept saying, ‘My life has been full,’ when describing his existence. On the other hand, Dave was like, ‘I have this golf cart, I have the ranch, I have this much property, these are my trains,’ and just went on and on about the stuff he owned. He was wealthy and had money, but Ron, who didn’t appear to have much at all, seemed to have it all figured out. It was an interesting comparison.”
Eduardo’s pictures are raw, real and authentically capture life in the Heartland. In their essence, they prove that no matter how unassuming, every photo has a story.
Photos by: Eduardo Enrique Silva
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