Tyler Roste (b.1990, Kansas City) is a photographer from Kansas City who grew up on the Kansas side of the MO/KS border. Roste received a Bachelor of Fine Arts for Photo-Media studies from the University of Kansas in 2013. Roste’s work has been published online in publications such as Aint-Bad and FotoRoom. He has recenlty had work in numerous group shows including No Nudes, No Sunsets in Catskill, NY and Summer Sunday Dream in Pittsburgh, PA at the SilverEye lab. Since finishing undergrad, he has been living and working in New York City where he continues to photograph in the Northeastern regions of the United States including Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York State.
PROJECT SPOTLIGHT: Men of Men
2017 – 2018
Men of Men is about man’s corrosive connection to the past; how we are tied to the history of the land and intertwined with it; how we continue to struggle in the same lands, on the same ground as those who came before us. We come up from the mud of the land and drag the sins of the past out with us.
The small Northern Delaware River communities where these photographs were made are some of the oldest in the United States. However, due to economic and industrial change, the region’s population has been in decline for many years. As in much of rural America, industrial work has been disappearing and jobs have become scarcer. There is richness to the culture that presides here, a trueness to them, something deeply rooted in the souls of the past. A thread tied to the ghost of an older America.
Centuries ago, the Lenni-Lenape tribes (Delaware Indians) had a vast and thriving empire in the regions along the river, but were forced out due to European settlers and western expansion. I find a great irony in this: we are now the ones that have begun to fade from the land, not because of conquest, but because of economic and cultural change. There is a violent cyclical nature to our history—how can we learn from our missteps?
When and where did Men of Men begin?
This project was sort of incepted out of pure exploration. When I moved to the east coast from Kansas, the density of the unfamiliar lands, this sort of “old America”, enamored me. I was not used to seeing these sort of landscapes back in the wide-open spaces of the relatively young Midwest.
There was a sense of nostalgia, as if these towns and places between Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey were familiar, but vastly unknown to me. I began exploring the border along the Delaware River that divided some of the oldest territories in our country. With this exploration I found that these towns suffered and struggled no differently than those of the West. I wanted to try and encapsulate the feeling of American vastness and decline that photographers have been highlighting for decades in the West, but do it on a frontier that was new to me, the old “back East”.
As I explored and photographed these places became as familiar (if not more familiar) than the landscape of my home state. At the time I was reading Suttree by Cormac McCarthy. Following a river to look for a correlation between the saturated world of his fiction and the real world of struggle acted as a sort of visual guide for the place I wanted to describe photographically. That’s when I began making pictures along the Upper Delaware River roughly in the year 2017.
Where do you see this project going?
To be honest, I don’t know what plan I have for this project in the future. It will likely be shelved for a time. I have sort of become encapsulated with the idea of estrangement from a place, particularly home. I have spent the last 6 years on the east coast, developing my adult life, however this was never my original home so I always feel a sense of not belonging. That being said, partly because of the current political climate, I have never felt so estranged from my home state of Kansas and from my own family as well. I think I am shifting gears to focus on that feeling, that sort of purgatory of not belonging anywhere. I have already begun making pictures in Kansas, trying to come up with a sort of familiarity of the place I was born and spent the first 22 years of my life. I want to take the practice of photographing I have used on the East coast and apply it to this new work about exploring and finding my sense of home.
What helps you sustain your current creative practice?
My main source of creative stimulation on a daily basis comes from reading and writing. I read often, and to me this reveals genres and themes I use as fuel for the work I want to make. Ideas can often come from novels, or at least keep my brain in the ballpark of thinking about the world. Literature and photography (as well as writing) are apart of the same fluid language. Themes derived from the world to create stories. This language helps me stay focused on a daily basis.
Along with this I look at lots of photography. I try to stay away from instagram (I do a very bad job at this) but I do have a large photo book collection that I try to crack into everyday. Often I just randomly google photographers and pile through their images while I have down time during the day. For instance the other morning I googled Atget and spent a good portion of the day just scrolling through his photographs. It definitely keeps new ideas about photography flowing even when I'm not actively making pictures.
What’s next for you?
I just got married on September 1st! Our wedding was a dream and it’s surreal to say that my best friend is now officially my wife! The last 9 months have been a whirlwind of planning and stressing so it is nice to be back and re-focusing on the next steps for my work. In the coming months I will try to continue working on my black and white project about coal country in Pennsylvania. This is something I have not had time to get back to since much earlier in the year and I look forward to delving back in to see where it leads.
I am also beginning the process of applying to some graduate programs for next year. Hoping the process goes smoothly, but I am very excited at the potential to go back to school for an MFA.
What other artists should we be keeping an eye on?:
Keep an eye on my good friend Max Mikulecky! He is an extremely talented photographer who has been working on a project following the Sante Fe trail from Kansas all the way down to New Mexico. I know he has a lot of new work he’s been piling through so definitely stay tuned for that.