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“The world does not yet know the importance of Missy Prince’s photography,” is a tweet I sent out last month with a link to her Flickr account. Missy has only been making images earnestly for 4 or 5 years, but she’s loyal to film, has nailed down an aesthetic and (though she probably won’t acknowledge it) has nurtured an admiring photo-public.

Like most Portland photographers, I first met Missy at a Lightleak meeting. She wears cowboy boots and straight, straight blonde hair. No fuss. I don’t know what she drives but looking at Missy’s photographs you’d reckon it a Vanagon, Lincoln Towncar or a veggie-oil bus. Her wheels have to be fun as she gets out into landscape often.

Now, I’m not one to romanticise Portland or the Pacific NW, but if you are looking for a photographer who can capture the allure of the outdoors in a modest, meaningful and evergreen way then Missy’s the one. So verdant are many of her photographs, she could be a one-woman tourist-board for Oregon. Logging roads, trucker hats and fields of wildflowers; it’s the misty, damp images of the PacNW, Missy is known for but I wanted to feature some of her new stuff.

These four photos are from West Las Vegas which, remarkably, is just a stones throw from the strip. Historically it is a Black neighbourhood. It has been largely overlooked during Vegas’ tumorous, gilded growth and accommodates its fair share of the social problems that go along with economic marginalisation.

But in these images of sun-bleached streets there is the same appeal that exists in her work from Cascadia. Missy plays with time. Part of it is due to the texture of film, but part of it is her attention to the vernacular and the overlooked. Missy celebrates Americana; she does not patronise it. And, how does she always find that classic car?

Her photographs gently point out what is all around us, if we can be bothered to get out the front door. Not idealised views, not scenes intended to manipulate, just straight up, well-composed vignettes. She treats photography like an exploration and you too might encounter within it moments of discovery.

What exactly is Missy’s background? In a 2011 interview with LPV magazine, she said:

“I haven’t studied the medium’s history in any formal manner but I think I have a fair grasp of it. My intake is haphazard, I go through phases of not looking. Many of my influences are film makers. David Lynch’s take on The Pacific Northwest in Twin Peaks occupies some prime real estate in my brain. The photography of Tarkovsky and Wim Wenders have stayed with me over time. Road movies and westerns. Two Lane Blacktop, The Passenger, The Hired Hand.”

You check out her other interviews with American Elegy, Orange Juice and The Great Leap Sideways. I only had one question for her.

How do you characterise the Portland photo scene?

The photo scene in Portland is pretty vibrant. There are a lot of photographers here. There are also a lot of galleries, publishers, and events, and there are thankfully still public black and white and color darkrooms. It’s a very photography friendly city, maybe partly because it is surrounded by land that begs to be photographed. I’m probably not a very good judge of the overall scene. What largely attracts me to photography is being out in the environment I am photographing, the meditative solitary experience. Taking photos is almost secondary. I could just as easily be out there sketching what I see. I’ve only been taking photos in earnest for a few years. A little over a year ago I was invited into a collective called Lightleak, which meets once a month to share work and talk about photography in a very relaxed atmosphere. It’s probably the deepest I’ve immersed myself in the scene. The great thing about those guys is they are all fellow film devotees who print their own work. As much as I enjoy the exchange with like minds, I have not deliberately sought many other photo-centered associations. I like when connections happen naturally. So far the internet has been my main resource for looking and sharing. I’ve actually become friends with a few local photographers whom I first encountered online. Perhaps that so many online roads seem to lead back to Portland is evidence of its enthusiasm for photography.

Missy is a faithful Flickrer and has Tumblr is Sea Of Empties. You can buy prints here.

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