Nathan Pearce (born 1986) is a photographer and book and zine maker based in Southern Illinois. His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally; including group shows at Griffin Museum of Photography, Unseen Amsterdam, Centro Fotografico Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Phoenix Art Museum, Center for Creative Photography, Carnegie Museum of Art and Benaki Museum in Athens Greece with solo shows at the PhotoNola festival and The Rangefinder Gallery in Chicago. Pearce’s work is held in several collections including the Museum of Contemporary Photography -Special Books Collection, Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University, The Snite Museum of Art and the Joan Flasch Artists' Book Collection at School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He has been published in over 150 zines and books; as well as online in The Huffington Post, The British Journal of Photography,  Self Publish Be Happy, Ain’t Bad, Burn Magazine, Young Space, Fraction Magazine and F-Stop Magazine. 


2011 – present

When I was 18 years old I packed my bags and left rural Illinois. It had been my home my entire life, but I thought in leaving I would find the perfect place for myself elsewhere. In the city everything and everyone I knew was very different from what I knew back home and yet at the same time familiar. The wild and restless days of my youth were in full swing. But when I awoke those mornings I still expected to see my old Midwestern life.

Where I was living wasn’t exactly the wrong place for me, and at its core my life wasn’t drastically different, but it wasn’t home.

I came back home to live almost a decade later. I still have no idea if this time I will stay for good, I don’t know if that will ever happen.

Some nights when I lay down in my bed and close my eyes I fantasize that I didn’t ever return. I dream that I could get right back up and go over to my corner bar in the city and have a drink looking out on the crowded street. 

But I’m not there. I’m here. In the country.

Now it’s just after harvest time, my favorite time of year. The fields are almost cleared and I’m barefoot on my porch with a beer in my hand. I can see for miles.

This project is about a time in my life when I can feel the tension between home and away.

When and where did Midwest Dirt begin? 

I shot for a long time before I put it together as project. I found the themes that were emerging when I looked through a few years of pictures. I decided that I wanted work that explored the tension between home & away. Once I found the work it was published online in a few places and then I almost immediately started working on it as a book. I connected with Matt Johnston (The Photobook Club) early on and he helped me for over a year developing the project and the book. That process helped me realize that I loved making books and zines. I have since been very involved in the making and distributing of books and zines. I can often be found at zine fests and book fairs around the Midwest and beyond with my work.

Where do you see this project going?

Midwest Dirt is an ongoing project. I am not sure I will ever stop making it. I continue to make books and zines as the project continues and evolves. I recently published a new book from the project with Halfmoon projects. It's a completely re-edited and re imagined version separate from the original book and bootleg version that followed it. I have exhibited the work in solo and group shows and some more experimental d.i.y. situations as well. I feel like the exhibitions continue to evolve just as the books do.

What helps you sustain your current creative practice?

I try to use every spare bit of time to make work (or catch up on emails). I work at my day job full time but some how fit in more work on my art every week. Every break and lunch break is filled with my art. I am also able to use the copy machine at work to make zines. I don't have much creative community here so I talk with Rachael Banks and Jake Reinhart most days of the week. That really keeps me going.

What’s next for you?

It's pretty amazing to me that I get to make photos and then some people care about it and get something out of them. I am beyond happy to keep making pictures and putting them into books and zines. I guess what I am trying to say is all I could hope for is to continue doing this for as long as I can. I am hoping that the next publication to materialize will be something I'm working on with Tim Carpenter.

What other artists should we be keeping an eye on?

There are so many but I will mention my friends Jake Reinhart, Rachael Banks, Matthew Crowther and Tim Carpenter. I look at a lot of photography and I look at theirs most.