Sunday, October 4, 2009

Meet Main Street USA

Tonight was the final night of the 2009 Missouri Photo Workshop, which was such a tremendous, heartening experience for me that I can't yet put it into words. But I do have my final collection of pictures, an essay on "Main Street USA." I'm very happy with my images and very happy with the final product of my first attempt at a photo essay. Infinite thanks to my faculty members, Maggie Steber and John Isaac.

(I very, very highly recommend viewing this in full screen mode. Click the icon with four arrows in the lower right corner of the display.)

More photos from the workshop will be posted eventually.

Thanks for looking! What do you think?


Brandon said...

The "cash or local check only" sign in #4 is a trend I'm sure is common to many small towns. I've lived in a small town and have been frustrated at the "cash only" policy, but my opinion is probably indicative of many visitors of small towns, particularity those from large cities. An opinion based on the assumption that everything will be the same everywhere, and fortunately this isn't the case, small towns being examples of that. Small towns are instances where change has not come at the same pace as in the big cities, and I think for the inhabitants, they would not have it any other way.
It is for this reason that I beg to differ with the caption of #12, I don't think the clock watches over an ever-changing era, the clock stands vigil over one of the few bastions of Americana, Main Street USA. With its press & curls and smoking indoors, these are aspects of life that, although unfamiliar to some, have endured the years of change.

Josh said...

As a resident of Festus, I have to say Thank you! I think you captured what I have been saying about Festus for years. It is a small town, but there are things that come with a small town that are immeasurable. Your set was my favorite, besides the set based on my son Kade. You and the whole group did an amazing job! THANK YOU!

Amanda said...

I am so glad you had a wonderful experience at MPW. What a magical place.

Steve said...

General comments: Some really nice images. That being said, i respectfully disagree with the first sentence of your story summary and would challenge you to push it further. The city I grew up in was a sprawling, disconnected suburb of 1/4 million people that hardly knew each other. The "small town" is a beautiful stereotype, true for many who live in small towns like Festus, but it is a stereotype. I have no connection to the feeling of a "small town" and wouldn't respond to your images the same as someone who did. Depends on your audience I guess.

In the towns such as Festus where MPW goes, it is a true depiction of their daily reality, but sometimes it feels like trying to duplicate a Norman Rockwell painting instead of putting "Main Street USA" in to the context of 2009. You mention the "cursing of the encroachment of Wal-Mart" but I don't see it. And I bet a lot of people still shop there even if they curse it. That is hard to show well visually, but is something to think about.

This is obviously a workshop, with only a few days to shoot and not a long-term documentary project, so there's no point in harping on it too much. Its, just that I , personally, would love to see some images that really challenged my ideas about what "Main Street USA" really is and showed it for the complicated reality that it surely is. No culture is, has ever or will ever live in stasis and I think adding that element of modernity and change would push your images to a deeper level. I still think your images are sophisticated and beautiful though and these are only personal opinions which you may or may not agree with.

Specific comments: The first one is great. I would like to see some sort of human silhouette or something to really complete the frame, but that's me and it's your picture. There are a few too many hair salon pictures. Make a choice as to your favorite. Mine is the one with the pictures on the wall and noone in the frame. Speaks to "history" quite well. People without people, right? The interaction picture at the diner is an important picture, but I would like to see a stronger one of this situation. Right place to be, just needs a stronger frame. The deer head picture is interesting, but a little composition-ally confusing and my eye goes to the light immediately and never really gets a good look at the objects you are focusing on. Good choice of situation, but I would work it a little harder. The jeweler and his fiance picture is nice. Picture 11 is redundant and a little sloppy. You have much stronger that communicate this same idea. I would cut it. Your caption indicates you were interested because of the birds, but I didn't notice them until I read the caption (we have epyphites that grow all over power lines here though, so maybe I am desensitized to avian beauty).

Also, I would look through your take to see what sort of shots you have of the people who live/work on Main Street, to make it more personal. Together, it feels a little impersonal, like you are anthropomorphizing the street when Americana is really created by Americans.

One last unsolicited comment too: "Clock standing watch over an ever-changing view and era...,"?
Was it late? Clocks aren't people. Give me a guard dog to stand watch. Way to wait for someone to walk by though. It's a photographer's picture for sure. I can just imagine waiting and waiting for someone to just walk by while the store owner stares at you like you are crazy.

I don't mean to be too critical, I just think its some strong work and these are some ideas to push it even further. You obviously worked your ass off. Good job. Glad it was a great experience.

Funny Sidenote: my "word verification" is: "creper". What are you trying to say Blogger?

Greg said...

#10 made me break out laughing, it was so good.