The Tennessee Fireworks Project


These images have been culled from a large body of photographic work loosely called the Tennessee Fireworks Project. Since 2004, I’ve gone on the road annually to photograph the stands that mushroom alongside Tennessee’s two-lane highways during the three weeks when it becomes legal to sell fireworks.

I enjoy returning to the familiar roads of my home state each year, working in the blazing sun, trusty Nikon in my hands. Sounds of insects, firecrackers, hot rods and laughter provide a soundtrack. I find the stands to be fascinating, formally and on a symbolic level, as they relate to nostalgia and memory, current events, nationalism, and economics. To date I’ve logged thousands of miles, met hundreds of people, and have shot over 4,000 images.

I’ve been exhibiting the images on big canvases. From traditional negatives, I take chosen frames through a digital scanning and printing process. The final step requires re-assembly onto canvas utilizing a gel medium transfer method. I enjoy shooting with film, turning to the digital world, and then using time-honored tools like paintbrushes and X-acto knives to see each piece come back to life.

Some of the Fireworks images are pure graphic design, some are documentary, some are affectionate location shots, and some of the images feel political. I’ve shot many portraits of the tent workers who I now call my friends. Fireworks are dangerous yet beautiful. The folks who sell them are often likewise—they’ve got to be tough to succeed in the business, but they also truly love the public. Their way of life is under threat. It may not be legal to sell independent fireworks for much longer.

So I am out there again this year—just me and my Nikons, in my little white truck packed with coolers and film. And once again I’m seeking those colorful stripes beyond each curve of the road. Say hey if you see me!