Leah Frances’ work makes us nostalgically imagine a time gone by.

The Canadian photographer seeks images that portray what we were and what we largely continue to be in the forgotten places of aggregation of America.

Currently you can visit the “Things were never normal” exhibition at Martin Art Gallery until April 12 .

“I made these photographs during the Trump presidency and the post-Trump era, with one coast under water and the other battling unprecedented forest fires — the climate crisis destabilizing life as we know it; with anti-abortion vigilantes empowered, by law; George Floyd murdered on a Minneapolis street corner; and the storming of the Capitol by groups including far-right militants and white supremacists.

As of May 3, 2023 (the expiration of the federal declaration of the Covid-19 public health emergency), 1,131,729 Americans had died of Covid-19. Much is missing from this list, yet “America is back.”

This exhibition highlights “third spaces”: components of an area’s social infrastructure, communal spaces outside of home and work such as taverns, church picnics, diners, restaurants, and movie theaters — sites where we might gather, if we could agree.

Many of these venues have been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic or by extreme weather events, both of which have become politicized.

My photographs are mostly empty of people, yet pushed-back chairs or half-finished meals on tables show that life did occur here.

Pictured are scenes where things once happened, never happened, or might still happen. Yet let us not be buried in collective amnesia: Things were never “normal.” “


About Leah Frances

Leah Frances is a Canadian photographer born in Alert Bay, Canada, now based in Easton, Pennsylvania. Frances’ work has been featured in numerous print and online platforms including The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times, The Guardian, the Carnegie Museum of Art’s online journal, Storyboard, and more and has been exhibited nationally and internationally. In December 2021 she graduated with an MFA in photography from The Tyler School of Art and Architecture at Temple University in Philadelphia.

Her first sold out photo book, “American Squares,” debuted in September 2019 at the New York Art Book Fair at MoMA PS1 and was quickly featured by T, The New York Times Style Magazine, in their “T Suggests: Things our Editors Like” column. Her second book of photography, “Lunch Poems,” was released this past October (now sold out). Esquire named it a “Favorite Photo Book of Fall 2022.”

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