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Hiking the Lancaster Drive Trail

Phil Decker | Salem, Oregon, United States

The source of the Lancaster Drive Trail.

This photo essay explores the transformed environment of a classic American suburban/urban strip, Lancaster Drive, that runs through Salem, Oregon.  

Between April and July of 2012, I took walks along this 8-mile path, from it's rural source, through dense commerical real estate, and then back to undeveloped terrain.

Instead of photographing landscapes of pristine nature, I'm searching for the remnants of the forest, nature's diverse leftovers and transplants, tenaciously hanging on, against the odds. 

I'm also intrigued with how we try to order nature into organized and trimmed landscapes, and how as a photographer I too order nature with deliberate composition.

The photo essay was first created as a blog: http://salemnationalforest.blogspot.com




I’m motivated to photograph cohesive topics that leave behind a historical record and that contribute to social change.  Most of my work has focused on immigrant communities in the U.S.A, such as Haitian, Puerto Rican, Jewish, and Mexican.  Through this work I pay homage to my own immigrant roots, as my grandparents fled pogroms in Eastern Europe, to create a better life for their families here in America.

In addition to being motivated by the content of my photo essays, I’m also fascinated with and challenged by the photographic process.  Photography helps me to pay very close attention to the world around me.  I search for the rare moments when elements of composition, light and gesture merge together into an image that sheds light on the content of the event being photographed.   I also work on staying put, being patient, and sometimes getting as invisible as I can be, so that the images can enable the viewer to feel as if they were right there, seeing the world through my eyes, in my place.

I studied at the International Center of Photography in NYC, during the first year of its Documentary Photography program.   I currently live in Salem, Oregon, USA  where I work as an elementary school principal, and where I coordinate a group of local photographers called the Salem Photo League.   Some of my current photography projects include Oregon Crop Festivals, Urban Trails, and Extra-“Ordinary” Moments.


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