Wednesday, 4 January 2017

America Rewind

Emmanuel Georges had just turned 21 when he for the first time arrived in America. And, needless to say, he came with images in his head, many of them inspired by American mainstream media. He wanted "to witness first hand how true to life the marketing and media-biased concepts that make the so-called American Dream actually were." What he discovered – in regards to pictures, that is – can be found in this tome. To be more precise: What he has chosen to present to the world is a selection of photographs that he took on four different journeys through the USA (in 1986, 2010, 2011 and 2014). 

On the one hand, he found "the self-assuredness of a people who believe they have everything", on the other hand, he encountered run-down communities and neglected villages. "For some, this American Dream had only been temporary", he states. 

When Emmanuel Georges thinks of the USA, "Wim Wenders and Walker Evans come immediately to mind", he writes. And, I feel like adding, this is also what can bee seen when looking at his pictures.
Devon, Montana @ Emmanuel Georges

My own perception of the USA is also heavily influenced by Wim Wenders' and Walker Evans' images. And by Edward Hopper's paintings of which these photographs also remind me despite Emmanuel Georges' statement that for him, "photography as a medium is rooted in realism and, therefore, is the opposite of painting." Good point, I thoroughly agree yet would argue that Edward Hopper's paintings are also rooted in realism.

Of Wenders' Paris-Texas, Georges writes: "It seems to oscillate effortlessly between fascination and scepticism whilst transmitting a sense of humanity". And while that captures essentially my own America-feelings I also think it to be a rather apt characterisation of America Rewind.

What do we get to see? Things man-made, mostly buildings in decay, some well-tended cars. Almost all pictures are devoid of human beings.
Ryan Sheridan, Wyoming @ Emmanuel Georges

America Rewind is one of these rare photo books that inform the reader about how the photos came into being. In other words: We are told of the photographer's travels, his interests, what he considers his motivation and influence, the photographic equipment he used, how he links his personal story to the one of his American cousins.

By the way, I'm just returning from a visit to California and America images figure still prominently in my mind. And, while I'm aware that, say, the Midwest and the West Coast may seem like different planets, there is something so typically american in Georges' photographs (the constant longing for the better that is so often doomed to fail) that it makes my heart ache.

PS: The texts come in French and English; to me, the French version clearly reads better.

Emmanuel Georges
America Rewind
Hatje Cantz, Berlin 2016

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