Born in Belgium to Italian and Norwegian parents, Jason Koxvold grew up in the UK, studying Psychology and Social Science in Scotland but spent most of his adulthood in the United States. It was here that his latest project, Knives started.
Knives is Jason Koxvold's first monograph. The project explores the effects of the closing down of the Schrade Knife factory in Wawarsing, upstate New York as production shifts to China and locals are left behind. Wawarsing is a town in Ulster Country, New York and it's name takes meaning in the Wawarsink language "a place where the stream bends".
In 2015, Jason who also lives in Wawarsing began documenting his neighbours and its residents for the next 2 years.
What does the knives in this series mean?
For me the knives present a powerful intersection of symbology. They’re essentially tools of violence, at some level. Some of them are works of art in their own right. They represent a disappearing craft, but also a fundamental truth of neoliberal economics: if the owners of the business can make more profit by doing things a different way, they must do so. To not do so is almost impossible. In this case, a man bought the bankrupt company, moved production to China, and then sold the reformed company to Smith & Wesson for around $80 million. The only cost was the blood of the town of Wawarsing.
How do you feel Knives reflect on the larger problem that Americans face?
A lot of Americans believe that the reason they’re out of work is because of Chinese people and immigrants; they believe that ‘globalists’ are the cause of their pain. And while there is some truth in this, the more powerful issue is that there’s a schism, an existential crisis, in the American value system.
What does this project mean to the people that you’ve photographed?
The world of fine art that people like me inhabit is largely seen as completely opaque and meaningless to the vast majority of people. Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa, author of the essay which accompanies the photographs, wrote: “We should do away with any notion that those of us who read this book are in a position to confer recognition on those represented within it. Similarly, we should also do away with the notion—deeply embedded in much of the history of documentary photography—that those people shown in these pages seek anything from us as their audience. To fail at this is to risk further entrenching a set of antagonisms that have been dangerously weaponised in the very recent past.”
How did you get in touch with the inmates featured in this project?
Interfacing with the NY Department of Corrections was challenging, and a significant learning experience. For DOCCS, their ideal scenario would appear to be zero interaction with the public whatsoever - I found them to be only grudgingly helpful. I had to file Freedom of Information Act requests to establish who was in the prison to begin with. Once I had a complete list, I was able to research specific individuals, and when I found men who seemed like a good fit, I wrote them letters asking if they would be interested in participating.
What are your own thoughts on globalisation?
I see globalisation as a natural evolution of capitalism and neoliberalism; it enables the wealthiest people in the world to exploit the poorest. Once the possibility of globalisation exists, it becomes almost impossible for local commerce to survive; the stock market simply will not accept anything less than maximum possible profit from publicly-owned companies.
This 140 page photography book is available for purchase on Gnomic Book's online store.
Any upcoming projects?
I am working on a project named Calle Tredici Martiri right now; a reinterpretation of my grandfather’s diaries from the Italian Resistance in WW2, fighting Nazism and Fascism. Like Knives, it challenges the possibility of photographic truth against a canvas of documentary narrative.
Photography by Jason Koxvold
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