Sunday, December 29, 2013
Over the past 51 weeks I have posted and explained the images and stories I had chosen for each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia for this portrait of America. Some were very specific events linked to their exact location. Others were an example of something that was happening in other places besides the attributed state. As I was organizing the composition I decided to add a few general stories not part of a specific state, but part of the whole nation. Since I have one more Sunday left in this year, I thought I'd talk a bit about them.
City and Country
I decided to fill a background space in the upper right corner with an urban city scape. I based it on a vintage photo of Newark, NJ, though the specific choice was not something I considered significant. At the time I was just thinking about representing another aspect of American life. Looking back at it now, I notice that this is the one area of the print with no specific news story, which sets up a situation where almost all the news is happening outside the big cities. Significant cultural differences between different regions of our nation have existed going back to the founding fathers, and right now we seem to be in a moment where that divide is deepening.
Immigration, especially the illegal kind, continues to generate all kinds of controversy. Everyone agrees the current situation is a problem, but there is a lot of conflict over what the solution should be. Dealing with border security issues, the economics of individuals and corporations, political balances in regions and the nation, these are all part of the equation. (lower left corner)
Around the turn of the century American prime time television turned over a big part of its schedule to things lumped into the general group of reality tv. No need to pay professional writers or actors- just get a bunch of people seeking attention, film them for a while, and edit it into a show. Includes traditional game shows, but also the more modern model of setting up situations were personal conflicts will be created, then let nature take its course. In the race to get that bit of fleeting television fame, some people will do pretty much anything on camera. I went with two examples here. Above (lower center) I have someone being filmed doing something potentially dangerous (think the Jackass show and movies of this era, and YouTube videos these days). The idea below (center right edge) was based on a network show that had just started a brief run at the time I was working on this piece. Called "Are You Hot?", it was just men and women posing briefly in front of a panel of "experts", wearing minimal clothing. If the majority of the panel approved, they moved on to the next round. Mercifully, the show was cancelled after its introductory run.
The stories in this print were all about reported news events from a specific two month period in American history, but in many cases the story is far from over. Go back through all 50 states on the blog and see how much has changed, and how much is still the same.