A few years ago I was a juror for the Critical Mass competition, and an image of a young man getting a tattoo hit me - hard. It was just so sad. I did not write down the name of the photographer, and every once and a while this image would come back to me. I regretted not knowing the source or how to even go about finding the image again. And then a few months ago Jared Soares attended a Flash Powder retreat. I was familiar with his Small-Town Hip Hop series, and that was the project we spent days and days working on. It wasn't until the last day of the retreat that on a whim, Jared pulled up his Martinsville project on the computer. When the tattoo photograph came on the screen, I kind of lost my mind. Reunited at last. Jared's photographs have an emotional pull that stays with you. That's what makes his work perfect for FOCAL POINT.
MARTINSVILLE BY JARED SOARES
Martinsville is a declining factory city with a population of less than 14,000 people in southern Virginia that battles an unemployment rate of 20 percent, double the state and national average. For 75 years the textile and furniture industries in Martinsville employed tens of thousands of people who produced American-made clothes, linens and furniture with familiar names such as Bassett, Stanley and Fieldcrest. Greed and international free trade agreements crippled Martinsville. Many of the workers who spent decades in the factories have lost their main source of income along with their identity. This in-progress project attempts to examine how families and individuals are coping with the downturn.