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This Week in Photography: American Made Machines

I almost tried this last week.

I mean, I did, but then I chickened out.

I went back to my old edit one more time, put in more labor, then MORE, and finally muscled my way to a column I liked.

But what am I doing?

What’s so new?

I’m writing on Friday morning, just before I post the column.

It’s so daring!

So chic.
So risky.

I feel dangerous.

Like John McClane running around the Nakatomi Tower, just knowing he has the grit to deal with whatever they throw at him, and he’ll be good for a witty one-liner while he’s doing it.

That’s me right now.

Writing on a Friday morning.

It’s like: have you seen those guys who walk the high-wire between two buildings? With no net?

That’s me right now.

Winging it.

You know why?

Because it’s summer-time, and IDGAF. (If you don’t know the acronym, look it up.)

The United States is finally emerging from the Trump era, which ended with the worst pandemic in 100 years.

The world has been so fucked up, for so long, that I’m finally starting to get all this Roaring 20’s talk.

If staying in your house for a year isn’t enough to make you want to build back better, and get out into the world and do things, now that you can, then please, let me be the one to light a fire under your ass.

To you Americans, (sorry, world,) our country is now safe to explore again. Your IRL hobbies and social interactions can resume.

Grab your chance like a half-pit-bull with a stuffed animal its jaws!

I teach art all the time, (as you know,) and I swear, this process makes us better. We learn about the planet, ourselves, our craft.

It’s a potentially cathartic outlet.

Most artists do it because of that great phrase Kandinsky uttered all those years ago: inner necessity.

That deeply rooted need to create.
To make things.

Right now, I’m thinking of someone in particular.

In early January of this year, as the country was on the verge of exploding, I felt the need to do something different.

Here, in the column.

So when Twitter’s algorithm pointed me in a direction, I followed, and discovered the work of Laidric Stevenson, a Black photographer based in Dallas, who uses a large format camera to document his city.

I reached out to him directly, and within days, we’d published his “My Virus Diary project.”

I’d never done a story in that way before, as I always show photographic portfolios from exhibitions or portfolio reviews.

As thanks, Laidric sent me a ‘zine of another project I admired, “American Made Machines,” and it went into the submission pile nearly six months ago.

We got to know each other after that, Laidric and I, and he joined my Antidote online program for a few months this spring, culminating in a pretty great final critique.

I know this guy works two jobs, and is raising a family in Texas.

Yet somehow, he finds the time, in the margins, to cart around his massive film cameras, fiddle with the tripod, and make his art.

The ‘zine, “American Made Machines,” which I finally opened, is a testament to that. (And I think this one was shot with medium format film.)

The opening statement says back in 2014, with the birth of his first child, he didn’t really have time to make work.

Finally, a few small cracks opened in the schedule in 2015, at night, and he found himself inexorably drawn to these big hulking American cars, vans and trucks.

Metal sculptures from a bygone Era.

Carter.
Reagan.
Bush Sr.

Pax Americana.

The easy times.

Before the internet.

Before the pandemic.

Back when Donald Trump was just a rich, entitled, skinny, good-looking, NYC-shyster-rich-guy.

This ‘zine celebrates that America, late 20th Century America, through its car design, and the people who continue to keep their machines going today. (Which the statement mentions can be a tricky thing to do, older cars being fussy.)

So with Juneteenth and July 4th nearly upon us, I wanted to write a positive, short, summer column, and then be on my way.

See you next week.

For more info about “American Made Machines” click here

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