I (Joseph Vavak) am a photographer from Omaha, Nebraska that is obsessed with small details and lesser-known histories, random highways and capturing the world around me. Every place, no matter how small, isolated or seemingly inconsequential, has had meaning for someone at some time. My goal is to preserve these nearly unknown places and moments, to document their (and, in turn, my) existence.
This website presents an overview of much of my work, an introduction to my little corner of the world. Explore and enjoy.
A project dedicated to the idea of a walk in the woods, an exploration of Fontenelle Forest located in Bellevue, Nebraska. What started as a way to spend a fall morning turned into a thorough survey of Fontenelle Forest covering every one of its nearly twenty miles of trails and all four seasons. This presented a new challenge to me in several ways, from the natural subject matter to the relatively small area I chose to document. The result is a unique look at one of Nebraska's oldest protected areas and something I am very proud of. This series was first exhibited at the Forest's Nature Center in the spring of 2015.
The Magic City (2011-14)
I moved to South Omaha a few years ago and immediately found myself falling in love with this part of the city. Nicknamed the Magic City, South Omaha was celebrated for how quickly its population grew due to the world-famous stockyards after being founded in 1884. Today, South Omaha is home to a rising Hispanic-American population that has revived its main streets with locally-owned businesses and a sense of community that was missing a decade or so ago.The Magic City captures and celebrates its landscapes and details as they exist at this time. This series was exhibited at the Hot Shops Art Center in Omaha in May of 2012.
My first large scale project is called ninety-three. This series, a photographic survey of Nebraska, includes one photograph for each of Nebraska's 93 counties. I began in Saunders County at the grave of Matej and Katerina Vavak, the first Vavaks to settle in Nebraska in the mid-1860's. From there, I criss-crossed the state on numerous trips, eventually ending up with a sort of visual diary of what I encountered. ninety-three is very much about discovering who I am as an artist and what the place I've called home since the mid-1990's means to me. The series was exhibited at the Hot Shops Art Center in Omaha in May of 2010.
This was my first full portfolio, completed as part of earning my degree from Metropolitan Community College here in Omaha. Up to this point, I hadn't yet quite figured myself out. Working through this project helped me find my vision and set the stage for everything that has come since. The photographs, almost entirely mundane or slight odd architecture, were taken near home in places like Fremont, Nebraska and Creston, Iowa. I remember at the time being told that I would come to dislike my first portfolio as I moved forward, but that really hasn't been the case. It's still something I'm very proud of.