Scavenger: Adventures in Treasure Hunting Statement
“There comes a time in every rightly constructed boy’s life when he has a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure.”
-Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Riley grew up in rural eastern Washington. As a child he read Mark Twain’s stories of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn and decided he wanted to be like those mythical boys. He wanted a life full of treasure and adventure. Riley started smoking a corncob pipe, wearing a straw hat and even went to school barefoot until he was told not to. He got his first metal detector when he was eleven and to this day he continues to seek treasure in the dirt, in sandy beaches or even looking through a handful of change for wheat pennies and real silver. In my project, Scavenger: Adventures in Treasure Hunting, I have been following Riley out on his hunts and photographing the objects he collects. I explore the line between documentary and fantasy as I look at the objects he finds, what drives him to continue and the mythology and history of the treasure hunting persona.
In Scavenger I don’t try to reveal Riley’s essence as a traditional portrait would, but build upon it to create a more complicated presence. I express my romantic view of his life and his treasure hunting obsession and choose not to show his daily activities outside of that. By only showing one side of his personality I create a larger than life character. I photograph him in Twain’s spirit, as a mythical adventurer, like Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer.
The objects Riley collects are an escape into this mythology, a fantasy world full of possibilities. Riley finds little monetary reward for treasure hunting since most of his day is spent digging up worthless pull-tabs and random scraps of metal, nevertheless he spends all his free time scavenging. As Riley brings long buried and forgotten objects back into the light the objects acquire new meaning and value as his treasure. Riley arranges and displays this treasure at home and I have created stereographs of the displays to be viewed in 3D. Looking into the stereoscope one is invited into Riley’s world of wonder to see the characters he creates as they take on new life.