Laura Beth Reese

Laura Beth Reese (b. 1987) holds an MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA) and a BA from Muhlenberg College. Her work has been exhibited nationally—most recently at the Colorado Photographic Arts Center, the New Arts Center, and the Griffin Museum of Photography. She was a 2016 recipient of the Traveling Fellowship from SMFA and has been published online at Feature Shoot and The Huffington Post, among others. Reese currently resides in Boston, MA and works as a Teaching Assistant at Harvard University and a Digital Print Technician at SMFA.

What should be (and might have been)

“I have often wondered when (or if) the day would come when I would hear from you. We kept my pregnancy a secret from our families. It was a decision that was tough to deal with, but one I’ve never regretted. We are not in a place in our lives where I can share the news with them now. Perhaps when they are older…I don’t know…”

As a child, I remember clinging to the fact that I was born in Iowa. My parents told me stories about a distant place—so empty, so flat, and so quiet—a place that they never would have visited on their own. Iowa became symbolic of my adoption. It was foreign, a faraway land that held the answers to the questions that I have about myself and my personal history. Not only is Iowa my birthplace, it is the home to my biological mother, father, and their three children—my siblings. When I reached out to them years ago, my biological mother made it clear that they weren’t ready to welcome me into their lives. I am a family secret. I thought that if I could be near them, I would gain some sort of insight into who they are and who I might be. I went to Iowa to be close to them despite knowing that the closest that I got would never be close enough.

But I arrived to discover that Iowa wasn’t really different from anywhere else I’d been before. Instead of finding the magical land that I imagined, I found a place filled with the same colonial houses, interstate highways, and chain restaurants as the New Jersey suburb in which I was raised. Being in close proximity to my biological family didn’t give me answers or even the feeling of home that I’d hoped it would. I didn’t feel any more or less connected to them by being there. I felt the same.

These pictures illustrate my Iowa – the place I want Iowa to be, the place I thought it would be. They are not a true document, but an interpretation of my fantasies and my dreams about it.

To view more of Laura Beth’s work please visit her website.