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End of the Road

Photographs by Brea Souders Selected poems by Lia Purpura

Souders began making the photographs that comprise End of the Road in March 2020 while living in rural upstate New York. The black-and-white photographs capture candid glimpses of visitors walking to the cul-de-sac at the end of a gravel road viewed through the mesh of a window screen or through curtains of leaves and branches. Her subjects variously walk, rest, hold hands, kiss, and stop to reflect, completing a series of ordinary actions during an extraordinary year. Photographing these strangers—who became unknowing companions—was an almost daily ritual for the artist, generating creative inspiration during a year spent sheltered in place.

The passage of time unfolds in these photographs through seasonal changes and through the contemplative perambulations of Souders’s subjects. Leaves sprout and sunlight casts bold shadows, while in turn, sweaters and mittens replace airy dresses and shorts. Some visitors return to the End of the Road repeatedly, while others make a momentary, but singular, impression. The photographs thus convey a heightened awareness to one’s surroundings and to nature that has become a common experience during the pandemic. In their intimacy, they express the longing for human connection that has defined our shared isolation. Each photograph is a chance encounter that sparks curiosity about the subject, what brought them to the End of the Road, and where they will go from here.

This virtual presentation features images from End of the Road alongside poems by UMBC writer-in-residence Lia Purpura from her book It Shouldn’t Have Been Beautiful (Penguin, 2015). Purpura has noted of this collection of poems, “I am interested in paying attention to the act of looking itself, an act which is almost always full of contradiction, surprise, and mystery.” This statement could equally describe Souders’s photographs, which, through their clandestine framing and sharp observation, elevate quotidian details to totems of coincidence. Likewise, Purpura’s attentive poems abound with incident, engendering expansive ideas from the brief container of their form. Here, photographs and poems, selected in collaboration between artist and author, walk together in tandem, illuminating shared themes and inviting additional connections and reflections.

*Images and text scroll automatically below. Hold your cursor over an image to pause scrolling and to move backwards and forwards in the sequence.


Public Program

Virtual Artist’s Talk: Brea Souders and Lia Purpura in Conversation
12:00pm (noon EST)
April 22, 2021

Register here (via Webex)


Black and white photo of man in overalls walking down dirt roadBlack and white photo of person in a white dress holding a glass, partially obscured by tree limbBlack and white photo of person walking behind foliageBlack and white photo of person jogging along dirt roadBlack and white photo of young man holding an animal to his chestPoem: Probability Most coincidences are not miraculous, but way more common than we think – it’s the shiver of noticing being central in a sequence of events that makes so much seem wild and rare – because what if it wasn’t? Astonishment’s nothing without your consent.Black and white photo of a man carrying a ladder in natureBlack and white photo of couple kissing viewed through tree limbsBlack and white photo of woman with face obscured by foliageBlack and white photo os silhouette of a figure holding a dog leashBlack and white photo of woman in shorts walking alone on a gravel road; she grasps her arm with her handPoem: Sunday Signs come. For what I don’t know. To be one in a vastness without meaning, except for making something of it, except for it being a conversationBlack and white photo of two women walking down the road; one wears a shirt that says Black and white photo of a group of youthsBlack and white photo of a man walking, wearing american flag print shortsBlack and white phot of a woman walking in shadows of trees and leavesBlack and white photo of two men walking through foliagePoem: Relativity Shade can chill or relieve and sun comfort or oppress, depending on what you need to shed or retain, which is nothing as simple as sin being dark, and grace, light. Filaments in a web can be both invisible and bright. Each thing’s its own partner, each always both, depending on where you stand, not so central, not so always commanding.Black and white photo of a woman standing amidst foliageBlack and white photo of a woman obscured by leavesBlack and white photo of a couple holding hands and walking in natureBlack and white photo of two figures standing on the road looking into natureBlack and white photo of person bent over to look at something in the roadPoem: Red Leaf It’s precious little warmth the trees are giving, muddled with last greens, addled with vines and that red, a new cry at dusk – oh mind where all things freshly darkened meet.Black and white photo of man walking alone in natureBlack and white photograph of man walking on snowy roadBlack and white photograph of two men walking on snowy roadBlack and white photograph of two men walking on snowy roadBlack and white photograph of two girls walking on snowy gravel roadPoem: Future Perfect Where you were before you were born, and where you are when you’re not anymore might be very close. Might be the same place, though neither is as slippery as being here but imagining where you will have been – that point where things land, are finished, over, and gone but not yet.

Brea Souders is a visual artist working primarily with photography. She has exhibited in the US and internationally, including solo exhibitions with Baxter St at the Camera Club of New York, Bruce Silverstein Gallery and Abrons Art Center in New York. She has received a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant, a residency with the Millay Colony and a fellowship with the National Arts Club. Features on her work have been published in the New Yorker, ARTnews, the Jeu de Paume Magazine, and New York Times. Souders’ work is included in many survey publications, including The Photograph as Contemporary Art, Thames & Hudson; Feelings: Soft Art, Rizzoli and Photography is Magic, Aperture.

Lia Purpura is the author of nine collections (essays, poems, translations.) A National Book Critics Circle Award finalist, she is a Guggenheim, NEA, and Fulbright Fellow, and has been awarded four Pushcart Prizes, among others. Her work appears in The New Yorker, The New Republic, Orion, The Paris Review, The Georgia Review, Agni, Emergence, and elsewhere. She is the Writer in Residence at UMBC, and has taught at conferences, workshops, prisons, and in communities and MFA programs throughout the country. It Shouldn’t Have Been Beautiful (poems) and All the Fierce Tethers (essays) are her latest collections.


End of the Road/ Hope

To celebrate the online exhibit of End of the Road and the collaboration between artist and poet, the AOK Library Gallery has produced a limited edition booklet, End of the Road/ Hope. Designed by Peggy Re, the publication features a selection of images from Souders’s series along with a poem by Purpura.

Register here to receive a free copy of End of the Road/ Hope. Booklets will be produced in a limited edition of 500 copies and mailed in May 2021.