Drawing inspiration from S.E. Hinton’s literary characterizations of teenagers and young adults in Tulsa, my documentary project called Rumbleville captures a contemporary depiction of childhood maturation in the same locations used in books and movies such as The Outsiders and Rumble Fish. Larry Clark and Gaylord Herron also created iconic images that were located in the same communities. All of these coming-of age-stories were created several decades ago, but the social implications evident in the work still largely define the region.
Rumbleville fluctuates between past and present-day economic challenges evident in the city’s nostalgic identity. These neighborhoods in Tulsa are romanticized for their stories of greasers, bikers, and reckless youth. These places are also isolated from the rest of the city and still face parallel adversities related to class and racial divisions. I am interested in how these locations shape the identity of the kids and young adults who happen to live in these neighborhoods that are also layered with history, nostalgia, and cult-classic fantasy.
The influence of Hinton, Clark, and Herron are a starting point for my photographs that document the contemporary youth in Tulsa. I specifically chose to photograph my subjects and locations in color. Many of the older depictions of the economically challenged communities in Tulsa were shot in black and white, such as Francis Ford Coppola’s film adaption of Hinton’s Rumble Fish. Although the name of my project acknowledges Coppola’s monochromatic film noir version of the story of Rusty James and the Motorcycle Boy, my own project is focused on the experiences of the actual residents in the city years later.
The patina of the Americana landscape, signs, and buildings helps define the identity of the residents in these neighborhoods and reveals the lingering class divisions that are being ignored as the rest of the city expands and is gentrified. My photographs are an exploration into the lives of residents that are both stereotyped and typecast.