“There comes a time in every rightly constructed boy's life when he has a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure.”
—Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Riley grew up in rural eastern Washington. As a child he read Mark Twain’s stories of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn and decided he wanted to be like those mythical boys. He wanted a life full of treasure and adventure. Riley got his first metal detector when he was eleven and to this day he continues to seek treasure in the dirt, in sandy beaches or even in handfuls of change, hoping to find wheat pennies or real silver.
In my project, Scavenger: Adventures in Treasure Hunting, I have been following Riley out on his hunts and photographing the objects he collects. I explore the line between documentary and fantasy as I look at the objects he finds, what drives him to continue and the mythology and history of the treasure hunting persona.
In "Scavenger", my aim is not to reveal Riley’s essence, as a traditional portrait might, but to build upon what's there to create a more complicated presence. I express my romantic view of his life and his treasure hunting obsession and choose not to show his daily activities outside of that. By only showing one side of his personality I create a larger than life character. I photograph him in Twain’s spirit, as a mythical adventurer, like Huck Finn.
As a photographer, my search for the perfect image is not that different from Riley’s search for treasure. We are both driven by the thrill of the hunt and possibilities of what we will discover.
— Jenny Riffle