The American Experience
The American Experience series was born from my initial visit and immigration to the US in 2011. In my experience, tourism photography tends to be from a singular standpoint: in the lens of a first world traveler and what they see as exotic or romantic in third world destinations and people. My intention was to reverse that gaze back to the first world and create a sort of documentarian style series that would capture the essence of the US.
The aesthetic of the images ranges with the mood of the subject matter. Several combine multiple images or archetypes into a single composition, showing the relationships between those elements and their environment. There are moments where HDR techniques capture the light in such a way that you can almost hear the subjects breathing and feel the temperature of the scene. Panoramic views lend to the immenseness of other shots; in these it is easy to interpret the overwhelming sense of arriving in a strange land.
To form a concise and singular narrative proved to be rather difficult. What I found was a culture vast and multitudinous in its values, impossible to summate in a photo series. Admittedly, the camera is a biased medium whose voice is dependent on the discrimination of the artist. For this reason there is a sense of exaggeration in some photos where my focus was on the bizarre. Overall, I was drawn to the subtleties of the culture as it exhibits itself in day to day moments. These nuances were often endearing, at times contradictory in nature, producing both tragic and comic irony.
At one end, the images portray an America that is hedonistic, consumptive and naïve in search of pleasure. Although the blend of health and eastern spirituality has influenced certain populations, as evidenced in the photo of poolside yoga, an unabashed thirst for excessiveness and its resulting obesity still pervades. Straight sexuality is openly expressed and consumed in an almost primitive fashion. And yet there is the soft intimacy witnessed between a homosexual couple lying on the beach with a shopping bag; reminding us simultaneously of both the nation’s history of poignant struggles for individual rights and the cycle of consumption created by the free market.
Another noticeable aspect of the free market is the enormous wealth and power that it has created. These constructs are evident not only in the immutable presence of corporate brand names but also in the cool, disciplined lines of skyscrapers and imposing monuments. Infrastructure is maximized for the movement of capital, so that one finds people outnumbered in the streets by delivery vehicles and public transportation lines. The people seem dwarfed by the enormity of the systems, and confrontation of these systems can erupt in to an authoritarian violence which conflicts with the regiment of self-control and absence of emotion seen elsewhere.
There is a certain element of the quotidian in many of the photos, which soften the absurdities found throughout the series. The melancholy of historic buildings and closing ma and pop stores, the innocence and hope of pageantry, and the sleepiness of old age are all present. From high to low brow, the discordant to the refined; this series ultimately captures a humanness and diversity that cannot be presumed as all encompassing; however, provides a glimpse into the culture from an outside point of view.
*In collaboration with Erika Bartlet.
From high to low brow, the discordant to the refined; this series ultimately captures a humanness and diversity that cannot be presumed as all encompassing; however, provides a glimpse into the culture from an outside point of view.