Ian Sherlock Molloy creates photographs and audio depicting the places he lives, and those closest to him. The modest yet subjectively profound interactions that he documents amount to short-form works akin to poetry. Intimacy, notions of beauty, and reflections on trauma drive his creative process. Physical media such as small fine prints, books, and cassettes are paramount with the consideration of his work. Originally from Syracuse, New York, Ian currently lives in Eugene, Oregon, where he is an MFA Candidate and Teaching Fellow at the University of Oregon. He has exhibited, performed, and made publications with numerous institutions in the United States and abroad. When he isn’t in the studio, he spends his time running in the mountains.
Landscape and Silence
CONTENT WARNING: Child Abuse, Sexual Assault, Pedophilia
On the rightful land of the Cayuga and Seneca nations of the Haudenosaunee exists the now decommissioned Seneca Army Depot, a 7,000-acre lot in Romulus, NY. The partitioned land of the depot has allowed a genetic mutation to flourish among the deer population inside, which has turned many of them white. In compromising their ability to camouflage this trait puts them at a disadvantage for survival. The confines of the depot encourages the persistence of this mutation which renders them so vulnerable; at the same time, however, it also provides them refuge. The phenomenon of these deer has fascinated tourists, hunters, and spiritual seekers for decades.
While in operation, the depot housed munitions for nearly all US involved operations. Most notably, the depot served as the largest arsenal of atomic weapons and the second-largest stockpile of nuclear weaponry in the United States during the Cold War. However, this fact is denied by the US government today.
Growing up nearby, my Scoutmaster (and mentor) always made it a point to look for white deer along the fence line of the depot when we would drive by. He shared with me the many skills scouting required, but also (and more notably) he shared with me his love of photography. The depot was a frequent stop on our photography expeditions, and we would drive the perimeter in hopes of finding the deer. Our bond was vital to my understanding of the world and instilled in me a desire to make photographs.
My memories of our time together were abruptly soured when he was later charged and found guilty of child molestation and for the possession of child pornography. A number of the charges were associated with the depot and the summer camp down the road from it. Any memory of my role as a potential victim in these events remains unclear to me, although the consequences of any (possible) actions are tangible and evident still.
When deciding to revisit this geographic and mental landscape for this ongoing project, I made a deliberate decision that the objective would not be to clarify or uncover the events that unfolded, but rather to become more comfortable with what will forever be unknown. I also see this as an opportunity to meditate on the stained roots of my photographic career, and to hold space for the multiple narratives of trauma outside of my own, both site and subject-specific. While pursuing this work, decades worth of files containing reports of abuse within the Boy Scouts were released to the public; it is estimated that the number of victims of sexual violence is in the tens of thousands in the United States alone.
The use of appropriated media—such as that from game cameras (used in hunting and conservation)—signifies my emotional, geographic, and factual distance from these events. To complement these are photographs taken within and around the depot; making these images was the first time I had visited the site since my mentor’s actions came to light. Media representations act as punctuation, illustrating the magnitude of trauma within the Boy Scouts and ground the viewer in the present.
The vulnerability and elusiveness of the deer serve as an embodiment of the fragility of self and the intangibility of recall—particularly concerning traumatic memory. The infrastructure and media imagery imply a broad and complicated historical past of authoritarianism and trauma beyond my own. Landscapes, like people, are scarred in the aftermath of trauma. As the depot is left to deteriorate, and eventually be re-wilded, it is vital to acknowledge these stories. In Landscape & Silence I begin with my own.
To view more of Ian Sherlock Molloy’s work please visit his website.