Plastic coolers with wheels fill the seasonal aisle in the grocery store and fireworks stands sprout on street corners, yet even with the visual hints, 4th of July is one of those holidays that always seems to sneak up on me. Although I have a Statue of Liberty collection of more than 200 pieces, including a life-size Lady Liberty streetlight, I am not an avid collector of patriotic paraphernalia. That said, I do have a portfolio of images titled “Americana” which I seem to revisit each year when the outside temperature inches its way up, triggering the air conditioner to the ‘on’ position.
As a street photographer, I shoot what is before me. Nothing is posed. I just happen to be where an image wishes to be captured. In the “Americana” portfolio there is a photo of a girl wearing the American flag as a skirt, several scenes with comical road signs, and a shot of an overstuffed chair abandoned on a barren hillside. These are statement photos. The images I found curious at this viewing were those which captured an experience, more specifically, an experience that caught my attention for its potential of going unnoticed.
I’m convinced that artists (including all realms of creatives) are more observant than those who claim they are not creative. Photographers seem to be especially sensitive to their surroundings. Take a walk with a friend and you’ll quickly be aware that you see the same thing differently. Your friend sees a tree and you see shapes and colors supported by a gnarly trunk and bending limbs that reach to the sky. Artists do see what is immediately recognizable, like the tree trunk, but we also see further into the core of the knots as they protrude from beneath the bark like slow-growing bunions.
My interest in the upcoming holiday does not lead my eye to the front porch handrails festooned with yards of red, white, and blue bunting, or the community parade, or waving sparklers that make light trail patterns against the night sky. My attention is drawn to the people in the experience.
As this 4th of July approaches, I look in my “Americana” portfolio and recall celebrating on previous Independence Day weekends… the child riding away from the parade line-up, the boat traffic jam when everyone decided to leave the lake at the same time, and the nonchalance of grilling burgers in the shadow of Lady Liberty. This year I’ll again look to capture the spirit of the moment through the uncorrupted and often overlooked experience.