New Client/Photographic Art Exhibit Copy & Deadline of 48 hours: for One Eye’d Jacks exhibit of ‘Blue Collar, Red Dust’ in Brighton, England
The working class has been documented since long before Van Gogh’s ‘Potato Peelers’ or Millet’s ‘The Angelus.’ However, specifically in America, the fascination with blue collar work and rural life may well lie in it’s contradictions. Most vividly, when the routines of the people are held up beside the paramount narrative of a great, gifted, fake-breasted dream. An archaic dream that only eludes and remains increasingly out of reach for the vast majority of the country’s citizens; America’s material-industrial vacancy has occurred in the wake of an impossible dream being whole-heartedly indoctrinated.
Walker Evans 1941 publication of ‘Let Us Now Praise Famous Men’ cast his depression era subjects into ‘a light that they couldn’t do any better, that they were doomed, ignorant,’ as one sharecropper said in an angry letter in response to the photographer’s series. But was it the images that frustrated the farmer or his failure to realize the dream? Or was Evans being a ‘class tourist?’ Furthermore, who do you see when imagining a Post-Bush-era-American who grew up in a world of ever-increasing idealism? Are they doomed, ignorant, or something else? What have you heard?
David Harriman, Bryan Schutmaat and Tim Richmond are three photographers showing at the ‘Blue Collar, Red Dust’ photography exhibition at One Eyed Jacks on York Place between ______ and _____, 2013. When exposing the inside of rural American life during economic crisis, sentiment and dutiful empathy are synchronized strokes seen between the three photographers, and all three intrinsically analyze how these places and people have handled and maintained the different myths of western, white and platinum collar America.
“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.”
David Harriman photographs ‘The Red State’ somewhere north of Amarillo, Texas around January 2009 – in counties that voted 90% in favour of the incumbent Bush government – very soon after the historic election of Democrat, Barack Obama. It’s a place where slurpees cost less than a bottle of water, Dad works at the gas station, BFF’s are wired together with the ‘Y’ of an Ipod, pre-teen girls and boys look straight ahead wearing hand made jewelry, and kids in denim have kids in denim. Everyone is doing the ‘Amarillo Gothic’ just after the first black American president bought a really broken piece of machinery. Harriman gives you all kinds of youth (standing on January frost and in the middle of the street) in a town that lost something but doesn’t quite know what it is. Or was.
In ‘The Rust Belt’, he focuses on the once industrial heartland of manufacturing in the US, and the largest industrial region in the world. Big steel, auto manufacturing and mining were the backbone of the states (mostly underneath the Great Lakes) until it’s decline through the recession of the early 80’s. Today, the landscape is characterized by the presence of old factory towns and post-industrial skylines. The work’s absence of life and wide-open window of bold winter cold accentuates a feeling of departure and also ‘the departure of optimism’ via an absent population driven to work in the South’s relatively magnetic Sun Belt. The rare sight of a girl – who decided to stay – rarely leaves her home and overlooks a nativity scene on the lawn that should have been long packed away, as it is after Christmas.
Bryan Schutmaat’s work takes on the myths and beauty of the American West in his series titled ‘Grays the Mountain Sends:’ a sentence taken from the Richard Hugo poem, ‘Degrees Of Gray In Philipsburg’ which reads: ‘The principal supporting business now is rage. Hatred of the various grays the mountain sends, hatred of the mill, the Silver Bill repeal, the best liked girls who leave each year for Butte.’ Clandestinely, Schutmaat references Hugo’s literary work throughout his exhibition; touching on the poet’s depiction of masculinity in the American West and nodding more outright, too: producing near companion images which directly mirror sentences of the American poet, Hugo, ie: ‘the girl who serves your food is slender and her red hair lights the wall.’
A main vein in ‘Grays the Mountain Sends’ is Schutmaat’s palpable awareness of not heroicizing the underclass: ‘I know there’s nothing heroic, romantic, or fun about backbreaking labor and poverty,’ the photographer said in a recent interview with HotShoe Magazine. ‘But to overcome or endure it, with dignity and resolve, deserves admiration and honor. And the guys in my pictures are working class, not destitute; they’re just dealing with life, not asking for anything. So to recognize their character and strength isn’t the same as romanticizing their way of life.’
Finally but enthusiastically in ‘Blue Collar, Red Dust’s’ plethora of correspondence from some disenchanted states, is Tim Richards 2007-2012 vignette, photographed in Wyoming, Utah, South Dakota and Montana.
‘My introduction and inspiration to travel in the West came from cinema,’ Richmond says. ‘Junior Bonner with a beaten up Steve McQueen driving his convertible Cadillac, towing a horse trailer, grinding out a life driving on dirt roads from one small town rodeo to the next. Hud with rancher, Paul Newman tearing up small town life, and Days of Heaven with Nestor Almendros’ cinematography of the open plains…
The narrative potential of the photographs, it occurred to me, was enhanced by the all the isolation. Secluded man made objects fading and disappearing amongst the epic landscape…’
Narratives and cinematic tension erupt from Richmond’s work. Is it shaped or sought out? The brothels, wanted posters for the murderer of goofy human ‘Chicago Bob,’ a young cowboy checking in at last with apprehension and charm; there’s empty basketball courts. Eureka, Utah is despondency at it’s worst: the America that alienated itself. In Wyoming, four cowboys bow their heads before the rodeo while a fifth opens his eyes wide at the thought of being gutted. Motel’s and ranchers become a quiet part of the American populace. The West was once more traveled through. The myths created by sheer space and self-dependence, the roads, motels and gas stations are now largely flown over. But strong resolve shows from those both guarding and supporting the few remaining establishments.
Observing the retreating trails of a dream, Richmond, Schumaat and Harriman ultimately show us a series of roads, going both in and out of America’s blue-collar territories.
Check the gallery out! Great attitude toward sales and limited editions. Matt Henry is the man – b