© Jordan Gale

Jordan Gale

It Is What It Is



I was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; the only child to a single mother who since before I was born has struggled with a combination of drug abuse and poverty. When I was nine, our house was raided by the police on the suspicion that drugs were sold there. After this incident, we were forced to move and my mother attempted to overcome her addiction to methamphetamine. For several months, she slept most of the day, forcing me to partially raise myself. I always assured my mother that her addiction was never a source of shame or resentment, but this promise became more and more a lie as time went on.



My mother never quit, and in high school I acquired my own dependencies to drugs as means to escape. In retrospect, I now accept that I was angry, and wanted to be anywhere besides in my own reality. I resented my mother’s addiction and my own place in the world.



“It Is What It Is” acts as a form of therapy. An autobiographical visual diary where I confront the people and decisions of my past. I embrace the fact that my decisions were necessary in order to gain hindsight. Stagnancy and fear create a mold and some friends and family close to my heart blissfully lay in this mold forever. I was lucky; for many this cycle is never broken. By photographing the people and scenes most familiar to me I can begin to accept that these scenes are an aspect of the world. These photographs for me often stir up more questions than they provide answers for. One fact I’ve learned that I hold close is that, I’m in no way content at the moment. But, I am proud of where I’ve come from.



Short Bio

I was born and raised in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and fell in love with the art of photography in a high school darkroom class when I was sixteen. After high school I went on to receive my Associates of Arts degree from Kirkwood Community College, and am now an undergraduate student at The University of Iowa. Since arriving at The University of Iowa I have studied under photographers such as Danny Wilcox Frazier, and Jeff Rich. I aim to create intimate personal projects documenting the lives of those closest to myself still living in Cedar Rapids and neighboring communities. Photographs from my various projects have been featured in Lenscratch, Photographer?s Forum, and have been awarded by The Iowa Press Association, and The Associated Collegiate Press.


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The Emerging Photographer Fund is supported by generous donors to the Magnum Foundation

Magnum Foundation

4 thoughts on “Jordan Gale – It Is What It Is”

  1. Wow, nice to see something come along that reinforces my belief in documentary photography as a valuable and important medium of journalistic expression.

    Great work. Sorry it cost you so much, but contrary to the title, I think you’ve demonstrated that it is not what it is, but rather it is something you can work with and make into something else, even something better.

    Constructively, I think the right kind of captions would make it even stronger. And ideally, you could find someone to write an introduction that placed your personal story in a wider social and artistic context. But neither of those suggestions of what I would like to see accompany the work are in any way meant to take away from the accomplishment. It is exceptionally strong as is.

  2. What I love about photography is the fact that when one wants to create an essay with real actual depth to it, it requires looking straight “into the mirror”. Facing oneself and being acutely aware of one’s shortcomings is one of the surest routes to creating rare air. With this I’m not saying that for example music isn’t as honest and personal. However music is mostly created by instinct and feelings which appear somehow within. I’ve played and composed music from a very young age and it never required the same awareness of myself as I have found with photography.
    Now this essay has the honesty I’ve been rambling on about. It’s beautiful, sincere and powerful like all real life.

  3. Fantastic, Mr. Gale. An essay to be very, very proud of. Yet another great example of a powerful essay in our own backyards. No point in photographing things you’re not interested in. Intimate. Authentic. Heart. And, no ultra philosophical, written essay that ends up detracting from the pictures or leaving me feeling confused. Jordan’s words match the narrative indeed; the pictures do the talking. With or without captions (I kinda like it without captions though). Doesn’t hurt to have Danny Frazier as a mentor, either!

    And the title. . . . Man. To me, “It Is What It Is” says it all. Talk about emotion. It’s packed with hope, frustration, despair, longing, all at the same time, and I see these feelings in the pictures. At some point we’ve all gotta say “It Is What It Is.” Right?

    “I am proud of where I’ve come from.”–Probably the most important part of the essay, and also one of my favorite parts.

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