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American Prospects: Photographs Behind The Facade (1979-1983) - Flashbak

3-3 minutes

“Here is the challenge for photographers who would picture the true face of America: how to unmask the superficial appearance of the thing, revealing not only what its people have taken such pains to conceal, but also why”
– Andy Grundberg, The Itinerant Vision, 1987

A Blind Man in His Garden, Homer, Alaska, June 1984

A Blind Man in His Garden, Homer, Alaska, June 1984

Joel Sternfeld’s photographs show us America. As with the Documerica project that sought to show Americans themselves and their land in the 1970s and the earlier work of the Farm Security Administration to do the same, Sternfeld (born June 30, 1944) records what he sees around the country. To cut through the superficial and the confusion of so many shapes, colors and sounds, Sternfeld shows us ordinary things. Humanity presence is there even when people are not. The absurd is to the fore. And what of his own presence in the scene? “You take 35 degrees out of 360 degrees and call it a photo,” he told the Guardian in 2004. “No individual photo explains anything. That’s what makes photography such a wonderful and problematic medium.” In 1978, Sternfeld began to travel around the USA recording the landscape and people. The result was American Prospects series (1979-1983).

McLean, Virginia, December 1978

McLean, Virginia, December 1978

Glen Canyon Dam, Page, Arizona, 1983

Glen Canyon Dam, Page, Arizona, 1983

Coeburn, Virginia, April 1981

Coeburn, Virginia, April 1981

The Space Shuttle Columbia Lands at Kelly Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas, March 1979

The Space Shuttle Columbia Lands at Kelly Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas, March 1979

Wet n' Wild Aquatic Theme Park, Orlando, Florida, September 1980

Wet n’ Wild Aquatic Theme Park, Orlando, Florida, September 1980

Swift River, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire, July 1980

Swift River, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire, July 1980

After a Tornado, Grande Isle, Nebraska, June 1980

After a Tornado, Grande Isle, Nebraska, June 1980

Yellowstone National Park, August 1979

Yellowstone National Park, August 1979

Approximately 17 of 41 Sperm Whales That Beached and Subsequently Died, Florence, Oregon, June 1979

Approximately 17 of 41 Sperm Whales That Beached and Subsequently Died, Florence, Oregon, June 1979

Sauvies Island, Oregon, June 1979

Sauvies Island, Oregon, June 1979

After A Flash Flood, Rancho Mirage, California 1979

After A Flash Flood, Rancho Mirage, California 1979

Bear Lake, Utah, July 1979

Bear Lake, Utah, July 1979

Exhausted Renegade Elephant, Woodland, Washington, June 1979

Exhausted Renegade Elephant, Woodland, Washington, June 1979

Grafton, West Virginia, February 1983

Grafton, West Virginia, February 1983

Domestic Workers Waiting for the Bus, Atlanta Georgia, April 1983

Domestic Workers Waiting for the Bus, Atlanta, Georgia, April 1983

Abandoned Freighter, Homer, Alaska, July 1984

Lake Oswego, Oregon, June 1979

Lake Oswego, Oregon, June 1979

Beverly Hills, California, May 1979

Beverly Hills, California, May 1979

Canyon Country, California, June 1983

Canyon Country, California, June 1983

Phoenix, Arizona, August 1979

Phoenix, Arizona, August 1979

Rustic Canyon, Santa Monica, California, May 1979

Rustic Canyon, Santa Monica, California, May 1979

Lilac Festival, Rochester, New York, 1994

Lilac Festival, Rochester, New York, 1994

West Virginia, March 1983

West Virginia, March 1983

Putney Vermont, October 1978

Putney Vermont, October 1978

Via: Albertina, Atlas of Places