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New American Gothic?

Times have changed. America has changed. I don't know if it's better or worse. Worse -- perhaps because we've lost a certain civility we once shared as a nation -- a personal respect we paid each other because in "those days" we had to deal with each other more personally everyday, in spite of our differences, without the buffer of electronic media. Today's reality is a more fluid modern society with personal investment no longer required within our communities, because we are generally less committed to the concept of a community or job where we spend the majority of our lives.

However, maybe it's getting better, because perhaps now we'll start dealing with the elephant in the room, get our angst off our chests, dispel our frustrations, confront our limited beliefs, and start really talking constructively to one another -- frankly and honestly -- putting media and politics where they need to be -- behind us -- in approaching a deeper quality of life, and not representing us AS life. In either case, our profile and values as a nation have clearly changed.

Covering a public assembly can be a visceral experience for a photographer. Unlike the careful almost zen-like approach to planning a landscape shot, a political rally is a different and more communal experience. Working landscapes can often be a deep, personal and lonely quest, chasing the light and discovering the expressive "nature" of God through His handiwork shaping weather, Earth, light and time. It's a waiting game finding Him in the details and finding when His expressiveness is peaked at the right time and place -- a fleeting moment, often missed or poorly captured, but occasionally, it comes together just right.

However, the frenetic counterpoint of a political rally has everything happening now, then now, then now. You get dealt whatever conditions for light, place and time as it comes. The camera is set on continuous shutter, action is all around you, and though "moments" are also fleeting, there are so many of them, forcing you to see more things at once, moving in and out of perspective quickly, capturing dynamics on the fly. Hopefully, these dynamics define the whole experience, tell a story, and encapsulate the experience as honestly as possible.

The main shot (at the top) shapes a modern and broad perspective of one America, neither better or worse, just different, but something clearly removed from our early puritan nation as depicted in Grant Wood's iconic painting of American Gothic (above). The same determination and stoic profile of stedfast conservative American "heartland" values are present in both images, but the definitions have changed and the caricature of modern society that has thus emerged has revealed itself in an unsettling and startling way, perhaps exposing the ridiculousness of what we've become -- and how serious that really is. It is an exhilarating time -- it is a scary time -- but it is truly all American.

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