Scrappin’ Upstate, from the “Upstate Girls Documentary Project”
Brenda Ann Kenneally and The Upstate Girls
Funding for this exhibit made possible through support by Open Society Documentary Photography Fund Audience Engagement Grant (formally called the Distribution Grant).
In partnership with Rensselaer County Historical Society and Media Alliance; generous in-kind support of printing and copy work from Daniel Portnoy Photography.
An installation of large scale prints from Upstate Girls’ scrapbooks, alongside prints from the diaries kept by young women growing up in 1900’s Victorian Era Troy.
The personal becomes political, as this exhibition integrates stories of young women in North Troy today with those of their turn-of-the-century counterparts.
In a collaborative scrapbook project with “Upstate Girls,” the young women themselves created collages of their own family photos, official documents, writing, and drawing.
The Scrappin’ Upstate Project workshop began at “The Conversation with Upstate Girls” event at The Sanctuary for Independent Media on April 2, 2008, and continued at “Troy Night Out” later that spring. The ongoing project has resulted in a dozen scrapbooks and has extended into a multi-media archive. Kenneally’s “Upstate Girls” photos often appear in the pages of the girls scrapbooks.
The young women and men who created these lived as extended family in homes directly on the block of the Sanctuary. Their pages honor the milestones as the young women came of age, each with her individual challenges, yet all formed in some way by the character of the City of Troy itself. These are the stories of descendents of the Industrial Revolution’s working class, now the inheritors of economically devastated streets in the shadow of “Tech Valley” today.
Local historians claimed Troy as the prototype for the Industrialization of America, the home of Uncle Sam. In the late 1800’s, Troy was one of the richest cities in the U.S. Today, as the Upstate Girls give birth to a new generation, most households on their block receive public assistance, have family members in the prison system, and survive on hourly wages earned from service sector jobs. Globalization had changed Troy’s physical and social landscape; resulting challenges foster a more punitive attitude in public policies.
Scrappin’ Upstate will be featured in an upcoming graphic novel, which will be used to facilitate workshops and an online site, designed to preserve the stories of contemporary young women as a significant part of the ongoing history of Troy. Digital representations of the Upstate Girls’scrapbooks will join the Rensselaer County HistoricalSociety Archive.
MORE ABOUT UPSTATE GIRLS
“Upstate Girls” share stories about the challenges in their lives, and the institutions with which they are entwined—including the legal, educational, healthcare and penal systems. Award-winning photojournalist has photographed in North Troy for the past seven years. She reflects, “The years that I documented The Upstate Girls have produced nuanced stories that are a mirror for young working class young people in America to realize their common strengths and identify moments where social change is possible.