I was born in a small town nestled in the rough green hills and bluffs on the Mississippi River just below St. Louis. The river looms large in some of my earliest memories. I can remember flooding before I started kindergarten. It was so bad parents shuttled their kids to the school bus stop in john boats.
I was the last of four children, with three sisters substantially older than me. My dad was well into his 50s and my mom, nearly 40, by the time I came into the world in late 1967. I grew up with parents who were shaped more by the Great Depression than the Summer of Love.
Both of my parents came from farming stock, though my dad worked in saw mills before moving to St Louis. He was a wild boy from the Missouri boot-heel. He died when I was five, but stories about him figured large in my imagination.
My mother loved long drives in the country. I can remember sitting in the back seat of her big-as-a-tugboat sedan with the window rolled down watching the barns and silos and old churches pass by in a blur. She had a fickle radio in that Ford of hers. It only picked up AM radio stations. So, I grew up hearing radio preachers, farm reports, swap meets and old school Country & Western music from the car’s raspy back speakers.
Sometimes on these impromptu road trips, she’d get us lunch at a small roadside diner or truck stop with a bright juke box in the corner. My mom would give me quarter to pick out a couple of songs while we waited for the food. When I think about those drives, I still have that soundtrack in my mind. Waylon, Willie, Johnny, George . . .
Even now when I go out exploring to shoot for the day, I’ll set up a playlist. It’s all about music and images for me. Neither of my parents ever made it past the sixth-grade education, but my mom was a good storyteller. I think my desire to write and pursue photography was born that way. It did take some time to blossom.
I went to Latin America straight out of college. I spent the better part of a footloose decade living and working as a news reporter in Venezuela, Argentina and Brazil. While I’ve been back in the States for some time, I still travel a lot for work. I think that international experience–and ongoing exposure–has played a key role in how I view America.
I’ll be honest, in a world where everyone is trying to be colorblind, I’m on a search for color. Any thread of diversity will get my attention. I think my photographs show that. I don’t think this country is a ‘melting pot.’ If it’s anything, America is a buffet. I’ll take as much as I can get.
~ ~ Tom Darin Liskey, Photographer
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Tom Darin Liskey spent nearly a decade working as a journalist in Venezuela, Argentina and Brazil. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi. His writing has appeared in the Crime Factory, HeartWood Literary Magazine, Live Nude Poems, Driftwood Press, and Biostories, among others. His photographs have been published in Hobo Camp Review, Blue Hour Magazine, Synesthesia Literary Journal, and Midwestern Gothic. He uses images and words for a monthly narrative photography column at Change Seven. He tells his children that he’s done worse things for less money.