In this land of flash floods and blizzards, hail storms and brutal winds, it’s rare to meet a South Dakotan who hasn’t been humbled by the weather.
For me, it happened when I was driving home for the holidays from college with my younger sister, Mary. We had just filled up her old Toyoto with gas in Wall, South Dakota, and were again heading West on I-90 after six hours of painstakingly slow driving on snow-packed, slippery roads. We were both relieved to be on the “home stretch” to our parents’ place in the Black Hills because the radio’s winter weather warnings were urging all cars off the roads –- including the interstate, because, if the blizzard weren’t enough, there were also treacherous subzero windchill temperatures to contend with. Was it 20 below? Thirty below? I think it was starting to snow again, or perhaps it never really stopped…
All I remember for sure is that we were one of the last cars left on the road that Christmas Eve, that the sun was setting, and, that, all of a sudden Mary’s old car rolled to a halt. We looked at each other –- pre-med student to poetry student –– in the rapidly dimming light, both of us too afraid to say what was really on our minds –- if we didn’t make the right decisions now, enough exposure to such bone-chilling temperatures could lead to the loss of fingers or toes, and lengthy exposure could be lethal. Did I mention this was before cell phones? I was the older, but Mary was the physically stronger of the two of us. Who would stay and who would venture out for gas? And exactly how far away was the gas station? It seemed only a few minutes ago we’d filled up — and Mary, more the scientist than I –– was probably the first one to suspect that water in the gas from Wall was to blame for the car’s freezing up. Could it be, however, that we’d actually been driving more like 10 or 15 minutes since the Wall gas stop –– and , if so, just how many miles would that turn out to be?
I remember staring long and hard into my sister’s dark brown, thoughtful eyes. Before either of us could speak, one of those usually annoying, road-hogging semi-trailer trucks pulled up behind us and offered us a ride to the nearest gas station. I was never so thankful to be squooshed into such tight quarters with my sister in that wonderfully stuffy, musty cab that smelled of diesel and tobacco…I remember feeling oddly giddy as I clutched my AAA card in my right hand, which just wouldn’t stop shaking.–Rebecca Norris Webb
–“My Dakota” Q&A with Rebecca and Jim Estrin on the New York Times Lens Blog.
–Link to “My Dakota,” which was recently featured on the New Yorker Photo Booth blog.
–Link to “My Dakota” at the Dahl Arts Center in Rapid City, June 1-Oct. 13, 2012.
–Link to “My Dakota” on Aperture’s Exposures blog.
UPCOMING EVENTS: JUNE, JULY & AUGUST
––THURSDAY, JUNE 21, RICCO MARESCA GALLERY, NY: “Weather,” a group exhibition with a selection of photographs from MY DAKOTA, 6-8 pm. The exhibition runs through August 17.
RAPID CITY, SD
––JUNE-SEPTEMBER 2012: Launch of OUR DAKOTA Flickr site, an online photographic community This Flickr group is open to all photographers 15 and older with a present or past connection to South Dakota. Here is the link to the first assignment. There will be three assignments posted during the course of the “My Dakota” exhibition at the Dahl, and the group will culminate in an “Our Dakota” slide show to be show both at the SD Festival of Books in Sioux Falls the last week in September 2012 and at the Dahl Arts Center in Rapid City on Friday, Oct. 5th, at 7pm.
––TUESDAY, AUGUST 7TH: “Slide Talk with Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb” at the “My Dakota” exhibition at the Dahl. 11:30-12:30pm. Brown bag lunch event in the Ruth Brennan Gallery. Free and open to the public.
June 1-30, 2012. “The Suffering of Light: 30 Years of Photographs,” at the Second Street Gallery, Charlottesville, VA
TUESDAY, JULY 7-8pm:“Together and Apart: The Photographs of Alex Webb & Rebecca Norris Webb,” Schermer Hall, Anderson Ranch Campus, Snowmass, Colorado. Q&A with the Webbs and book signing of “The Suffering of Light” and “My Dakota” to follow.
UPCOMING WORKSHOPS WITH ALEX AND REBECCA
Sunday, Oct. 21st through Sat., Oct. 27th, 2012: PROJECT WORKSHOP 2012 @ CAPTION GALLERY, DUMBO, BROOKLYN. A small intimate workshop where participants spend a week editing and sequencing a long-term project, working on the text for it, and working with a designer on a cover. There will also be presentations about bookmaking including one by a photo book editor or publisher. Former students are invited to apply, but other photographers will be considered as well. This small workshop is almost full, so please contact Rebecca as soon as possible if you are interested: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alex’s interview with Geoff Dyer at the LOOK3 Photography Festival featured on The New York Times Magazine’s blog, THE SIXTH FLOOR.