Canyon Country, California, June 1983

A few years back I had the fortune to get in touch with the subject of one of my favourite Joel Sternfeld photographs,  (a very nice woman by the name of Kirstie Gray Erickson). She was photographed alongside her father in the ‘American Prospects’ series in an image called ‘Canyon Country, California, June 1983’


I asked her recently if she would talk about her experience back in 1983, (and since then), and she kindly agreed to pen some words together. This is what she wrote:

I was 10 years old. My parents and I were outside, gardening in our newly landscaped front yard. I noticed an out-of-place white VW minivan parked along the side of the road, about 2 blocks away. (You can see the van in our photo in the background). A very casual, and curious, man with dark, curly hair, shorts and a t-shirt came walking up the street. He was carrying an old camera attached to a tripod over his shoulder. He mentioned he was doing a photoshoot for Forbes magazine and asked if we would pose for him. We agreed and sat for him for close to an hour as he posed my dad and I on our garden wall.

As the years passed, the photo came up many times in our lives. My dad’s secretary purchased a photobook of various photographers, and Joel’s photo of us was in that one. Then, we were printed in the New York Times Magazine one year. Another year in U.S. News and World Report. Then we saw the photo printed in a new book by Joel, American Prospects. In 1991 I was living in Beverly Hills, CA and a friends mother had just come from the LA Art Museum and said our framed photo was being displayed. I ran to see the photo and sure enough, there it was, in all it’s glory. It must have been on some tour after Joel had gifted it out. My uncle, who was also a photographer in Minnepolis, MN, was at a photoshow of sorts and saw our picture on a slide show.

As it turns out, I researched where Joel was and found his address at Sarah Lawrence College in NY and told him who I was. We ended up connected via telephone shortly thereafter and spoke for several hours reminiscing about that day, 18 years prior. He was elated to have finally found me, as he said he keeps in touch with all his subjects, but we had moved and he had no forwarding address or contact information from us. Needless to say, he was very pleased that we were all still living. He said he uses that photo often in his classes and some students have wondered if the bracelet on my wrist was a hospital bracelet and if I was sick. ha I was a sprite, and slender little girls, but not ill my any means. The bracelet was from a water park I had gone to that summer.

I would love to reconnect with him again and do an updated photo of my dad and I now. That would be such a gift!

If anyone has a contact address for Joel Sternfeld could they let me know by e-mailing me at stuart@studio34.co.uk. It would be fantastic to make such an updated photo a reality. Many thanks, Stuart

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