Tag Archives: American Culture

Bye Bye American Pie

Nan as a dominatrix,
1973 © Nan Goldin / Matthew Marks Gallery

Exhibition on view:
March 29–June 4, 2012

Malba – Fundación Costantini
Avda. Figueroa Alcorta 3415
Buenos Aires, Argentina

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Larry Clark, Nan Goldin, Jenny Holzner, Barbara Kruger, Paul McCarthy, and Cady Noland. Seven controversial American artists are featured in Bye Bye American Pie, an exhibition exploring the ever-evolving facets of American culture: economics, politics, and America as an ideal.

Curated by Philip Larratt-Smith, the work resonates and critiques the changing state of U.S. culture from the 1970s to the present. With these world-renowned artists together in a single exhibition, a provocative survey of American cultural history is offered, celebrated, and gives way to analyze the deconstruction of multiple subcultures reinforced by television and Hollywood.

Nan Goldin’s Aperture published book, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency is available here and was most recently featured in Aperture issue 197. Barbara Kruger was featured in issue 138.

Below The Line: Portraits of American Poverty

Correction appended Nov. 18, 2011: A previous version of a caption in this slideshow incorrectly stated that a house had toxic drywall. TIME regrets the error.

In 2010, more Americans lived below the poverty line than at any time since 1959, when the U.S. Census Bureau began collecting this data. Last January, TIME commissioned photographer Joakim Eskildsen to capture the growing crisis, which now affects nearly 46.2 million Americans. Traveling to New York, California, Louisiana, South Dakota and Georgia over seven months, Eskildsen’s photographs of the many types of people who face poverty appear in the new issue of TIME. Eskildsen, who last visited America in 1986, says the poverty crisis was a side of the country he’d rarely seen in the media in Berlin, where he is based. “For Europeans living outside of America, it’s a mythical place because we’re breastfed with all those images of Coca-Cola and American culture,” Eskildsen says. “It was very heartbreaking to see all kinds of people facing poverty because many of these people were not only economically poor, but living in unhealthy conditions overall.”

Eskildsen was also surprised by how pervasive poverty is in America. “Once you start digging, you realize people in poverty are everywhere, and you can really go through your life without seeing them before you yourself are standing in the food stamp line,” he says. “So many people spoke about the disappointment of the American Dream—this, they said, was the American Reality.” In the accompanying magazine story, Barbara Kiviat argues that “there is no single archetype of America’s poor,” and that “understanding what poverty is in reality—and not in myth—is crucial” to efforts to erase the situation. Perhaps equally as crucial is the effort to put a face to the statistic, which Eskildsen has done here in haunting detail.

Joakim Eskildsen is a Danish photographer based in Berlin. He is best known for his book The Roma Journeys (Steidl, 2007). More of his work can be seen here

The project was done in collaboration with Natasha Del Toro, reporter for TIME.

Feifei Sun is a reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @Feifei_Sun or on Facebook.

Christopher Churchill on American Faith

In 2004, Christopher Churchill began a personal journey with his vintage Deardorff 8×10 camera, driving thousands of miles across the country to photograph what he describes as “an America that felt divided” and “caught in the middle of a cultural tension.” It was three years after the attacks on September 11, 2001 and the photographer was noticing a palpable intolerance in the country. “Questions of what or who was considered American were very prevalent,” Churchill says. “And religion was in the middle of this debate.” This feeling led him to start asking people about their faith, and the resulting journey is the subject of his Chuchill’s first monograph, American Faith, published this month by Nazraeli Press.

In the introduction of the book, Churchill says, “I had assumed that in order to have faith in your life you must be religious. However, when I would ask individuals I encountered through my travels what they placed their faith in, their responses would be something much more universal and simple than religion.”

Churchill had no specific plan when he set out on the road, but followed an intuitive journey where one subject led to the next. How does someone document a faith or an idea that’s invisible? Churchill began by making formal yet intimate portraits of his subjects. Then he carefully weaved in recorded responses from his subjects to his questions about their beliefs. Thomas Putman of Ponca City, Oklaholma, who was photographed holding his young son, told Churchill, “I believe in God. But everybody has a different belief, and as long as it furthers you in life and gives you a better perspective on the things you do in life, then I don’t really care what you believe in.” The response is one of tolerance mixed with independence that feels intrinsic to American culture.

In the book, portraits are interspersed with landscapes and documentary photographs, adding contemplative spaces. In a photograph of tourists looking out at the majesty of the Grand Canyon, Churchill conjures ideas of American transcendentalism, which holds the idea that one must find themselves thought self reflection, which often takes place alone in nature. An image of such idyll could feel slightly ironic or trite, but not in the style of Churchill’s work. He creates a tableau in soft black and white, where the viewer is gently presented with a space to ponder the majesty themsleves.

Churchill himself was not raised with religion. “I find my faith these days is in my family, the kindness of strangers and or course photography,” he says. “I’ve found that if I can get my brain past the obstacles of any given day and think about time from a larger perspective, there seems to be a path that is perfectly sequential and beyond coincidental. And I find great faith in that.”

American Faith was published this month by Nazraeli Press.

Christopher Churchill is a photographer based in Massachusetts. See more of his work here

Tanja Hollander

I had the pleasure of meeting Tanja Hollander last fall when a mutual friend, Siri Kaur, brought her to a brunch I was hosting. We recently became friends on Facebook and in exploring her site, that simple act of friending each other, has more significance than I realized. Missouri born, Tanja currently calls Auburn, Maine home. She graduated from Hampshire College and has exhibited in solo and group shows around the country, and recently won the 2011 Maine Arts Commission, Good Idea Grant.

Her new series, The Facebook Project, looks at how we define friendship and “who we let into our private yet very public lives”. She is working her way through her 688 friends (now 689) to create portraits of them in their homes throughout the world. I have often thought about the friends I have on Facebook and wondered if there was a way to connect in a deeper way, as many are not really “friends” but someone with whom I have a friend in common. But showing up at the front door of a stranger with camera in hand is a whole other experience. Tanja is also blogging about the people she meets, and the sights she sees. The end of the project will culminate in a book, real life exhibition, and all of her friends simultaneously changing their profile picture to the portrait she takes of them.

What started out as a personal documentary on friendship and environmental portraiture has turned into an exploration of American culture, relationships, generosity and compassion, family structure, community building, story telling and meal sharing, the economy and class, our relationship to technology & travel in the 21st century, social networking, memory, and the history of the portrait. Following in the footsteps of the FSA photographers and Robert Frank she has out to see America and to record how our society uses photography, the portrait social media to create and define our existence.

Needless to say this daunting project not only requires time and fortitude, but money. Tanja has some out-of-the-box ideas to raise capital. She is selling work on Etsy, Big Cartel, through her website, but also has a clever challenge. Tell Me A Story, the “pay want you can sale” ended recently, but there is sure to be another one. With this fundraiser, Tanja challenged interested collectors to tell her why they could not pay full price, and shares the stories on her blog.

Images by ©Tanja Hollander fromThe Facebook Project
Emily Sunderman, Michael & Carter Lee, West Cornwall, VT

Derek Jackson, Portland, Maine

Nell, Peter & Deb Whitney, Portland, Maine

Emma Hollander, Boston, Massachusetts

Shara Frederick, Andy, Oscar & Zelde Monteleone, Brooklyn, NY

Meghan Bradey, Camden, Maine

Chicky Stoltz, Felix, Amy & Reuben Kretz, Warren, Vermont

Dinner with Karin & Barry, Auburn, Maine

J. Nordberg & Pamela Albanese with Fluffita the cat, Los Angeles, California

Siri Kaur & Troy Morgan with Claude the dog, Los Angeles, California

Jeanne Paterak, Keith, Sydney & Ellis Fitzgerald, Portland, Maine

Jona Frank with Shep, Santa Monica, California

Colin Dusenbury, Los Angeles, California

Robin and Danny, Nevada

Matt, Beth, Will & Jim Kempner, Scotch Plains, New Jersey

Beauty and Wisdom: current photos of American women from another era


Mrs. limousines . Milner, from the series Beauty and Wisdom, Robbie Kaye

Beauty and Wisdom documents a fast disappearing aspect of American culture (Americana) as well as a diminishing population of women who are part of a generation that is often overlooked. More important than their weekly ritual of going to the ‘beauty parlor’ is the fact that these women are extremely vibrant, wise and humorousand committed to maintaining their life-long ritual for rejuvenation and connection.

As baby boomers age, the rituals of their mothers and grandmothers will fade and become obsolete. Beauty and Wisdom documents a generation of women, aged 70 and over, who have been going regularly to the beauty parlor once a week not as a luxury, but as a necessity, for most of their adult years. This project explores the grace and courage in which these women age in a society so heavily focused on the beauty of youth. Ironically, these are the women who opened doors for future generations of women to walk through, yet they are now part of an invisible generation.

See and read more in Lens Culture.