With his series Nearly West, Austin-based photographer Walker Pickering portrays Texas and the Southern United States in a way that evokes a time long past. Pickering, who is based in Austin, was “raised in the oil fields of West Texas and the swamps of far East Texas.” As a child, he and his family took summertime trips to Mississippi and Alabama for family reunions. Says Pickering, “When you get down to it, I’m really just trying to evoke memories from my own childhood.”
Pickering photographed the series on various road trips during the last seven years, mostly through Texas and the Deep South. Because of the complete absence of people, and animal life in general, there is the sense that humanity was vaporized decades ago; or, whomever might have been the last person around has long since gotten up and wandered off. Even the few pieces of evidence that might indicate that humanity perseveres are inconclusive: the fast food on the table, consumed by some departed patron, seems as though it was served and eaten in the 1950s; and a truck that may have just been parked may just as well have been deserted years before.
The feeling that this world is empty of humans does not, however, translate into any sort of post-apocalyptic overtone to Pickering’s work. Rather, he has effectively made a magical realm out of the present day, one seen through the sweet lens of nostalgia, and one that is so close to normal as to almost seem so.