Michaela O’Brien: Love Valley | LENSCRATCH

When I first became aware of Michaela O’Brien’s work, Love Valley, one of my first inclinations was to discover something about the location for myself—albeit remotely. I opened Google Maps and tried to parachute in via Street View, but my attempt was instantly thwarted. Google has not dispatched its picture-making vehicles into Love Valley, and for a logical reason. Cars are not allowed on Main Street. I found this inaccessibility intriguing because it is so simple to go anywhere on the internet. However, some locations remain too isolated for complacent exploration. In the case of Love Valley, seclusion is part of the lifestyle. Michaela has entered this world by living on Main Street and spending time with the locals. She has uncovered and documented forgotten artifacts and images that speak to the history and culture of a place that describes itself as “a boy’s dream and a man’s reality”—the Old West in North Carolina.  Her photographs generate a view of a community that prides itself in peculiarity. It indulges in an idealized past while attempting to find bearing for its future.