Past Time (In Progress)

“Past Time” explores the political and cultural embrace of an idealized America that never existed for many. It contrasts popular imagery of our past with photographs of contemporary life taken in locations that helped form the notion of the “good old days.” When nostalgia is politicized does it lose its innocence in the service of racism and xenophobia?

Artists, entertainers and entrepreneurs helped establish the “normalcy” of the white middle-class nuclear family in picturesque post-WWII America towns. I am photographing communities that inspired this view: Stockbridge, MA (Norman Rockwell’s paintings of small town life on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post), Mount Airy, NC(Andy Griffith’s televised morality tales in the fictional town of Mayberry), Seneca Falls, NY (Frank Capra’s film of a town rallying around its tortured banker hero), Marceline, MO (Walt Disney’s replication of his small-town Missouri main street in theme parks), Dixon, IL (home of actor and President Ronald Reagan), Placerville and Vallejo, CA (hometown and planned community associated with “Painter of Light” Thomas Kinkade) with and others. 

My original photographs of contemporary life in these towns will be incorporated with illustrations from children’s books of the 1950s and 60s, as well as my new photographs of children’s playthings of the period such as miniature town play sets and jigsaw puzzles. Marginalized Americans were rarely seen in these contexts. Shown together in a forthcoming book and exhibitions, these elements will explore how exclusionary misrepresentationsof a mythological past-perfect white America align with the current reality of some iconic American towns. 

Past Time v3 Cover.jpg