Photographer Jon Luvelli Spent Three Years Shooting One Gritty Midwestern Block—See Images From His Powerful Series Here

The stunning series has garnered widespread attention.

Luvelli, Frost (2013-15). Courtesy of the artist and Monk Talent Agency.
Luvelli, Frost (2013-15). Courtesy of the artist and Monk Talent Agency.

In his captivating and gritty black-and-white photographs, Jon Luvelli details the overlooked stories and rural idiosyncrasies of Midwestern American life. 

Luvelli (who goes primarily by just his last name) has a unique insider-outsider perspective to the environments he documents. Born in Italy to an Italian father and an African-Italian mother, Luvelli was adopted at just six days old and was brought to the United States, where he was raised on a small-town farm in Missouri.

From a young age, photography offered him a way of processing the world. He began taking pictures as a child after being introduced to the medium by his grandfather, a photographer and United States Navy veteran who documented his service in Guam.

As a kid, Luvelli would shoot images while riding his 1974 Honda Elsinore motorcycle on gravel backroads exploring neighboring farms and rural towns. Then, at just 15, he left home, traveling throughout the Midwest and eventually making his way to Arizona. In the Southwest, he lived an itinerant lifestyle, moving between friends’ homes and taking small walk-on acting roles while continuing his photography. 

Luvelli, (2013-2015). Courtesy of the artist and Monk Talent Agency.

Luvelli, She Fell (2013–15). Courtesy of the artist and Monk Talent Agency.

But a few years ago, the artist began a series that focused on a much more specific strip of land—from 2013 to 2015, he captured images on a single city block in the Township of Columbia, Missouri, often shooting for 12 to 18 hours a day. The series, “One Block,” was published in a monograph in 2015. The images are a visceral and sometimes disturbing portrait of the everyday people who typically go unnoticed.

The series, the artist has said, emerged from a difficult period in his own life: during those years, his fiancé was fighting cancer and had asked that he leave her at the hospital alone during the day. During those times, Luvelli roamed the nearby blocks taking pictures until he was physically exhausted. Soon after publication, the arresting images garnered interest from art institutions throughout the region, and were included in the University of Missouri School of Journalism’s “Pictures of the Year” International Photojournalism Collection in 2015. 

“The stark contrasts of light and dark call attention to a quotidian world in the shadows and subtle variations of gray encourage us to find beauty in forms customarily viewed as unsightly,” noted Joan Stack, curator of American Art at the University of Missouri’s Museum of Art. 

See more images of “One Block” below.

Luvelli, (2013-2015). Courtesy of the artist and Monk Talent Agency.

Luvelli, Emotions (2013–15). Courtesy of the artist and Monk Talent Agency.

Luvelli, (2013-2015). Courtesy of the artist and Monk Talent Agency.

Luvelli, Newport Girls (2013–15). Courtesy of the artist and Monk Talent Agency.

Luvelli, (2013-2015). Courtesy of the artist and Monk Talent Agency.

Luvelli, Before The Norm (2013–15). Courtesy of the artist and Monk Talent Agency.

Luvelli, (2013-2015). Courtesy of the artist and Monk Talent Agency.

Luvelli, Delish (2013–15). Courtesy of the artist and Monk Talent Agency.


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