Walker Pickering is an artist whose photographs range from marching bands to his ancestral homeland in the American Deep South. A native Texan, he lives in the Midwest where he teaches photography, video, and bookmaking at the University of Nebraska. His work has been exhibited throughout the United States and internationally, and is included in a number of private and public collections, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and The Wittliff Collection of Southwestern & Mexican Photography. He is the recipient of the 2013 Clarence John Laughlin Award.
Download a Curriculum Vitae (PDF).
Contact Walker for information regarding print sales, scheduling an editorial assignment, or licensing images.
Location: Lincoln, Nebraska
Telephone: +1 (512) 576-7460
Prints of images featured on this site are sold in limited editions. For pricing information, email Walker directly.
Esprit de Corps
Humanity’s social nature has always led people to seek out a sense of belonging and community. This was once the purview of civic, social, and religious organizations, but as community engagement has decreased over the last few decades, people have sought “easier” connection through alternative means, such as virtual platforms. During this same period, we’ve seen individuals grow more distant and separate from one another, their differences highlighted over their common humanity.
A seemingly anachronistic trend has persisted as a result: young people have continued to be involved in groups that give them an added sense of purpose. While not abandoning their digital personas, they begin to understand the power of working toward a common goal, even when their backgrounds and beliefs are dissimilar. The best example of this is the modern American marching band (along with its quasi-professional sister, drum and bugle corps).
In the American Civil War era, drum and bugle corps served strategic military purposes, and the groups born out of that tradition eventually became associated with civic organizations themselves, like the Veterans of Foreign Wars or American Legion. But it was the eventual association with high schools and colleges that seems to have given added purpose to these groups.
Although marching band has been derided in popular culture at times, its persistence attests to the fact that so many have discovered great things about themselves and others through membership. The power of music lies in its ability to function as a type of universal language. For musicians in particular, it can also serve as a coalescing force, allowing them to see beyond their differences. Furthermore, science has shown that physical activity leads to the increased production of special neurotransmitters in the brain, which intensify feelings of happiness. This kind of physiological response occurs both on the field, and through the physical exertion of music performance — it seems we’re wired to associate a sense of satisfaction with these conditions.
Many modern drum corps and marching bands now operate as competitive groups. They form circuits and attend festivals. While some may play a supportive role for a team (typically American football) their primary purpose is now generated from within. Members learn music and showmanship, but also develop leadership qualities, a sense of community, and the joy of creating and contributing to something larger than themselves. Esprit de Corps refers to this camaraderie — literally, the spirit of the group — that unites these young people.
Photographs inspired by life amongst the oil fields, desert, and canyons of West Texas where I was born.
My hometown of Orange, Texas rests squarely between the American Deep South and Texas, and as such, feels like a place unable to fully identify with either region. I come from a family of Southerners — mostly Mississippians and Alabamians. It was my own lack of a distinct regional identity that piqued an interest in visiting the places that might have made me a true Southerner, had I been raised there. I spent almost a decade wandering the region in search of an understanding of what I'd missed out on. The results were unsurprising and beautiful.