4 Juillet 2016
As a kid, everyday of my life, I bathed in American culture. I watched Disney movies and Hanna-Barbera cartoons, sung along Britney Spears, read Scroodge McDuck Comics, played with Barbies and wanted to dress and dance like Christina Milian.
Although at 12 that might have been a bad idea.
Regarding food, I have to admit that even as a child I had little interest in what we in Europe consider the epitome of American cuisine: McDonald's. Instead, I favored a cheap little Chinese restaurant my parents often took me to. But still, how American is loving the shit out of pseudo-Chinese fried dishes swimming in a sauce that is way too sweet?
Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that American culture has always had a huge influence on my life, like it does for most Europeans. I grew up longing for America, which I envisioned as some kind of distant dreamland where strange, wonderful things happened.
That was until life brought me to America for an internship. There, something even more amazing happened: I met an American who seemed to me to be the best person on the planet, and so I decided to never again part from him. By uniting my destiny to his, I united it to America as well, and now this country is a part of me.
So I came up with the idea of this series designed to feature some of the things I like the most about America. Many of these articles will probably focus on culture, because that's kind of my thing, but I'll try to also mention aspects of every day life in America (which is still culture, but according to an anthropological definition of the word, ha ha!).
So, I hope you'll enjoy my first attempt at this, which is dedicated to American photography.
I love photography. Almost all the works of art that move me deeply were made using this medium. So, in connecting with America, it makes sense that I started by looking at photographs, and the fact that this country has such great artists in the field is part of what made me fall in love with it.
To start with, so many artists that were essential to photography as an art form during the past century were or are American.
Here are a few examples:
Btw, don't miss this article about some of her early masterpieces that were revealed to the public only recently.
The 1950s economic boom dramatically altered American landscapes, providing talented photographers with a unique and striking subject, a neon-filled creative paradise. And so, in an era marked by the rise of pop-art, photography elevated fixtures as mundane as diners, gas stations or highways.
These colorful signs that used to epitomize modernity but now simply appear quaint and old-fashioned remind me of how, in America, even in places where you'd expect it the least, amazing things can happen.
I feel like there is a special kind of American optimism that somehow materializes in those pictures.
At the same time, this buoyancy is matched up with a sense of isolation that has to do with America's vastness.
As a consequence, many pictures are a mix of contrary emotions that can be deeply poignant. For instance, this image of a lonely house moves me infinitely more than many classical paintings do.
The loneliness of this nostalgic entertainment venue makes for a mysterious and poetic picture.
Although solitude is often bittersweet in photography, sometimes it is a blessing like in this image, which radiates serene happiness.
Or in this beautiful picture.
American photographers (and foreign photographers working in America, like Robert Frank) use whatever their surroundings provide them with to accomplish perfect composition.
Many American photographers are great portraitists. Some of the most famous names include Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Yousuf Karsh, Nan Goldin, etc. But even photographers who didn't focus heavily on portraits produced some amazing works in this vein.
That's it folks! I hope that these few examples allowed you to better understand how strongly I feel about the American photographic scene. Also, if you're not super into photography, I hope at least that these pictures titillated your curiosity, or maybe even impressed you.
I'll see you soon for a second episode of what I love about this country!
In the meantime, stay cool America!