Excerpt from “In the Midst of things”
by Sarah Hiatt
Photographer Sarah Hiatt captures a side of adolescence that we only murkily remember: a feeling of weariness with the present moment, terror of the future, the awkwardness of being in between. Over the course of six years, Hiatt photographed her younger niece and nephews around their home as they grew up in the small town of Joplin, Missouri, for her series In the Midst of Things. The images serve as a coming-of-age story, a visual narrative created through their personal experiences and shaped by the photographer’s struggles with guilt, loss, and loneliness. As their aunt, Hiatt was able to depict the formation of memories and the sad passage of time in a uniquely intimate way.
Hiatt writes, “The photographs of my niece and nephews reflect the formation of identity, and the relationship the children have to one another, to their environment, to their bodies, and to me. They live in a rural, predominantly white area of the Ozarks. In this series, they are often seen in quiet spaces, isolated and surrounded by darkness. Their internal lives emerge through subtle gesture and expression. Their home seems a safe space as identities and relationships are built and nurtured within a domestic, womb-like environment. Children often physically and emotionally mature beyond those boundaries. Time extends while pushing us forward, upward, and out.”
As a native of the Ozarks, Hiatt brings a nuanced and honest perspective on rural America that is so often lacking in contemporary photography. In the stillness of Hiatt’s images, becoming an adult means growing out of, or growing into, one’s family, religion, society, gender role, and place. Hiatt’s photographs ask: Do we inevitably accept this place, these obligations, this repetition? Do we reject these constraints? Would anyone know the difference?
Sarah Hiatt earned her BFA from Missouri State University, and her MFA from Columbia College Chicago. Hiatt currently resides in Chicago, Illinois.