My current practice is split between two distinct ways of working, one focusing on narrative and the other on tactility. 

In my series titled Elegy, I draw upon memories to examine my relationship with the cultural and physical landscape of my youth. I was raised for the most part in a town of 700 people in rural Idaho and felt like an outsider after discovering I was gay in my early adolescence.

During my formative teenage years, I was faced with a choice, to conform to the traditional masculine culture of the Western United States – one defined by violence and destruction – or to run away and create my own sense of belonging. It is through this struggle that my relationship with the idea of place emerges, and I question the persistence of the mythology of the West. The landscape provided both solitude and escape when I was with lovers, but also made us extremely noticeable. It is this tension between ecstasy and fear that I hope to convey in my image-making.

Inspired by the structure of post-documentary approaches by photographers in the 2000s and the aesthetics of the New Topographics exhibition in 1976, the work is intended to meander alongside the vast landscape. Like a living diary, the arrangement of staged and found scenes expands upon emotionally charged memories of exploration of not only the land but also sexuality.

As I continue to engage with and live in the Western landscape, I am continually making photographic discoveries that inform the structure and content of this body of work. The more time I spend in the natural landscape, the more things have begun to present metaphorical possibilities to enhance the body of work, as well as chance encounters with strangers in the countryside to help develop my perspective.

I plan on eventually using my negatives to make silver gelatin prints in a traditional darkroom and produce a photobook with a final sequence. 

In my other ongoing series Becoming, I focus my view on fellow members of Gen Z through portraiture. After shooting the portraits and developing the film, I scan, edit, and enlarge the negatives to be contacted printed onto fabric using cyanotype. I individually print smaller parts of each image, then sew the pieces back together to create a patchwork of each subject. It is through the tactility of my materials and process that I hope to emphasize the ongoing process of creation as it relates to identity. 





Colton Rothwell (b. Truckee, CA) is photographer and artist working and living in Missoula, Montana. Born and raised in small towns in the Western United States, his work explores ideas about queer identity in relationship with rural, cultural, and physical landscapes, as well as notions around the tactility and function of photographic imagery. He holds a BFA from The University of Montana, Missoula. He is not garbage. 

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