American Dream and Photography

Today I would like to write a post devoted to photography depicting the idea of American dream. American dream is an idealistic notion referring to possibility to live happy and successful life through hard working. Anyone in the United States has a chance to get whatever he/ she wants. You need just to work hard. American dream includes such things as independence, freedom, happiness, social equality, and many other things. Indeed people who manage to get what they want could live their dream. At the same time it is well known that the United States are not an ideal place. Of course many things depend on individuals. Anyway the idea of American dream has been criticized widely as race, class, religious and ethnic inequalities still exist in American society. Well, our world is not perfect. The idea is attractive but actually it turns out so that it doesn’t work sometimes. It seems to me that life in the United States and American dream have nothing in common. Just look at some pictures and you would understand what I’m talking about. Life in big cities maybe is exciting and spectacular. But what about life of One-storied America? Is it exciting and interesting? I do not think so.

As for me the photographer who manages to reveal the failure of American dream is William Eggleston. Well, he depicts everything as it is. He is interested in ordinary and banal things, everyday life and routine. So he is interested in everything that surrounds us. “Mr. Eggleston’s masterly photographs of places draw their strength and their significance from his never losing his own very acute sight of the human factor. The human being – the perpetrator of or the victim or the abandoner of what we see before us – is the reason why these photographs of place have their power to move and disturb us; they always let us know that the human being is the reason they were made” (by Eudora Welty). At the same time Eggleston is not criticizing what he sees. He tries to reveal the beauty of simple and uncomplicated things. By the way William Eggleston was the first American photographer who expressed interest in color photography. The Democratic Forest, Faulkner’s Mississippi, Ancient and Modern, 2 – ¼, Los Alamos and others are all about these issues regarding mundane and ordinary life of American society.

America is different. Pictures taken by Allan Tannenbaum depict the most interesting and bright events of the American society. Look at his series New York in the 1970s. Tannenbaum’s America has nothing in common with thoughtful and quiet images of Eggleston. “Allan Tannenbaum’s photographs of the 1970s are as wildly entertaining and energetic as that wonderful and bizarre decade itself. They form an important visual history of a moment when American culture changed forever” (by David Schonauer). Even though the pictures taken by Eggleston and Tannenbaum almost at the same period of time nevertheless they differ desperately. Tannenbaum is much more interested in parties, celebrities, in everything that is far from mundane life.


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