An outsider's eye, an instant camera and America seen anew

Via AP news wire
Monday 22 March 2021 04:01
America Instantly Photo Essay
America Instantly Photo Essay

Through the lens of an instant camera, through the eyes of an outsider, oft-neglected corners of America take on a very different cast.

There is beauty in the swing ride at the Mississippi State Fair, seats suspended against an azure sky. There is humor in the giant statue of a hotdog alongside a highway in Lesage, West Virginia There is desolation in a street scene in Cairo, Illinois

Photographer Maye-E Wong was part of an Associated Press team that drove the backroads during the run-up to the 2020 election. She illustrated stories about currents of racial tension that still ripple through towns that once expelled Black people, about how claims of a gentler political culture in Utah turned out to be far more complicated than the folklore, about people in coal country who were isolated from COVID-19 and race issues and so much more.

But Wong, raised in Singapore, also brought along an Instax camera that made prints immediately, without the complications of her professional equipment. Fully in the moment, she used that camera to compile a visual diary — “a collective portrait of a dysfunctional family,” as she describes it.

There are photos of the many people they met, from the Mississippi man whose wife had been put in a medically induced coma to the unemployed casino workers in Las Vegas struggling with poverty. Some supported Donald Trump and some didn’t, and so many opened their arms to the visitors.

But the Instax photos — tangible, color-saturated art-on-the-spot — also capturing slices of American life and the American landscape: Youths playing basketball on an outdoor court in Mississippi. A pig race at the state fair. Women collecting water at an old trough in Ohio.

Exquisite images of a Mississippi cotton field and bison grazing in Utah give way to shots that are less so — a Dollar General in Kentucky, abandoned cars in Meridian, Mississippi. There is irony in a Superman statue, usually a favorite spot for tourists to pose in Metropolis, Illinois.

In these pandemic times, there is no one around. And Superman wears a mask.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in