The Turnaround by Bradley Maule at Gravy Studio & Gallery

[Michael follows a photographic journey across the U.S., diving into urban scenes and wild landscapes that speak to the artist’s personal transformation. — the Artblog editors]

In 2009, Bradley Maule left Philadelphia with his wife for a cross-country trip, photographing their journey westward and their return to Philadelphia. Upon completing their trip, Maule and his wife decided to move to Portland, Oregon. But that’s only half the story in this narrative photo essay about a trip, a move, and a marriage break-up.

A vivid visual diary

A map tracing Bradley Maule's journey across the United States above his photographs
A map tracing Bradley Maule’s journey across the United States, above his photographs.

The Turnaround chronicles Maule’s 2009 trip through documentary-style photographs arranged salon-style on the wall to produce a photographic timeline of his adventure.

The photographs are arranged chronologically, beginning and ending in Philadelphia, and are accompanied by trinkets and ephemera from Maule’s travels, displayed on pedestals in the gallery. The series of images is a visual diary of the United States’ vast landscapes, including national parks such as the Badlands, Yellowstone, and the Grand Tetons–the colors and landscapes of these parks are breathtaking, and when compared to Maule’s more urban subjects, it is apparent that he was increasingly in awe of nature’s beauty as he progressed across the country.

An assemblage of photography and assorted ephemera by Bradley Maule.
An assemblage of photography and assorted ephemera by Bradley Maule.

Personal and photographic progressions

Gravy Studio & Gallery is a small, intimate space properly suited to Maule’s photographic narrative, as it complements the photographs’ personal nature. The small space also accentuates the grandeur of nature in the large, saturated landscape prints.

Photographs of Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park by Bradley Maule
Photographs of Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park by Bradley Maule.

The tone of Maule’s photography digresses from critical and crude depictions of Philadelphia’s urban landscape (including a urine-filled bucket that a neighbor in Fishtown stored on their roof) to sublime landscapes of the North American West. Each successive image is less critical, and coincidentally less urban, further emphasizing the artist’s appreciation of nature in his large landscapes.

In this way, the photographs foreshadow the artist and his wife’s decision to move to Portland and epitomize the transitional moment that the title suggests.

"Groom, TX" by Bradley Maule
“Groom, TX,” by Bradley Maule.

The images in The Turnaround possess a vulnerability that contributes to the exhibition’s personal nature. Viewers are then left to fill in the gaps between images, and to develop their own narrative for Maule’s cross-country trip; it is this “choose your own adventure” layout that separates this show from traditional photographic exhibitions and allows the artwork to transform into an immersive installation.

While the artist physically turned his life around and returned to Philly, this exhibition ends at a pivotal moment before the artist’s life completely changed. The images show a brief glimmer of hope. Maule ends the series of photographs with a sunset over the Philadelphia skyline, which he said was a metaphor for coming to terms with leaving the city behind.

The Turnaround by Bradley Maule
The Turnaround, by Bradley Maule.

Although the artist presents the viewer with a diary-like series of photographs, the narrative he creates can easily be removed from the images. Maule selectively provides the viewer with written material–a title and biographical background–for the body of work, but the narrative he wrote has many interpretations. The Turnaround could tell the tale of a Philadelphian discovering the plethora of landscapes across the United States or, similarly to Maule’s experience, it could chronicle a journey that ended with a life-altering move across the country. In documenting his journey, Maule has organized an exciting exhibition with many different interpretations that inspire conversations among viewers, adding to the personal nature of The Turnaround.

The Turnaround is on view at Gravy Studio & Gallery from August 1 – August 30, 2014. Gravy Studio and Gallery is located at 155 Cecil B. Moore Ave, Philadelphia, PA.