Today I made another print from a motorcycle trip. This barn is found along the Palouse Scenic Byway just outside of Tekoa Washington.
It is another frame from the roll of TMax 3200 ISO film. I chose to make a photograph straight on to the front surface of the structure in a manner similar to the works of Walker Evans. It adds a formality to the composition.
I think this image is one of timeless Americana that illustrates the mythology associated with the foundation of the country, westward expansion, and modern day conservative ideology.
It is an origin myth that has become highly controversial along a dividing line between rural America and urban America and between red and blue states and counties. It is a ideological viewpoint that omits native and immigrant voices and yet resides in the monetary change in everyone’s pocket.
I grew up at the tail end of modernism. My uncle fought in Vietnam, my other uncle served in Korea, and my Grandfather flew on B-17’s during WWII. Modernism was about a powerful belief in one right answer and a belief in the improvement of life through technology and capitalism. The motto in America during the period of modernism could be described as , my country right or wrong.
By the end of the Vietnam war we had emerged into a period of post-modernism that disputed the rightness of governments. It was a period of general distrust of ideologies. We have now seemed to have slipped further down that road towards an era of Post-Truth now known as metamodernism.
Life and Liberty are words associated with throwing off oppression in pursuit of happiness as expressed in the American Declaration of Independence.
As a result of growing up during these periods of modernism, post-modernism, and meta-modernism I experience conflicted responses to scenes like this one. I appreciate the spirit of freedom and the visual beauty of the image, while also enduring a sense of guilt over how it has historically not been very inclusive, to a sense of sadness over the current discourse and meta-narratives of contemporary culture.
Perhaps all the current debates and marches are an exercise in maintaining the modernist ideal of personal agency that can be expanded to include more people. Freedom from oppression is something worth pursuing.
As I ride onward I feel a profound sense of personal freedom. I feel blessed. I feel grateful. Later in the day as I ride along the Snake and Clearwater rivers I cannot help but remember learning the verses of Woody Gutherie’s song This land is your land in grade-school. It is a landscape that does fill me with a sense of patriotism that is born out of love and not hate.
I pray we come out of these turbulent times better for the wear and united in our pursuit of happiness for all.