If Alexis de Tocqueville was born about 175 years later, chronicled his American travels with a camera rather than a pen, and focused more on motel signage than the nation’s equality of social condition, he might well be reincarnated in photographer Stéphane Goin. Stéphane visits the States year after year, taking pictures of our fast-disappearing, neon-slashed, tail-finned, two-lane-blacktop'ed panorama. For this special dispatch from France he shares some snaps from his travels and his thoughts on what draws him to our long stretches of land.
15,000 miles on the road … stopping off 11, 12, 13 times, heading off again as many times. Crossing 36, 37, 38 States, fingers trigger-happy, exhilarated at the idea of capturing the American dream…
It is here, overwhelmed by the vastness of it all and, above all, mesmerised by the road so vividly conveyed by Kerouac, that colour, space, a sense of infinity, really came home to me. My subsequent chance encounters with the work of Stephen Shore, Jim Dow, William Eggleston, Robert Franck and countless others, inspired me to go off and follow in their footsteps. I wanted to see, after so many years, whether the places in their work still existed. I wanted to see for myself that particular light, experience that mood.
Cinema was naturally a huge influence, with Wim Wenders’ “Paris Texas” and “Don’t Come Knocking” leading the way.
Gradually, my project took shape under the working title “Mad(e) in USA”. It matured over several years as the people and smiling faces I encountered allowed me to put my finger on the charm of this continent, to grasp the reasons for its legendary attraction.
From the Lorraine Motel in Memphis to the hot rod races on the Great Salt Lake, I developed a fascination with these wild open spaces, this intensity and these distances… There are, without doubt, a few cultural differences, but for a European brought up to the sound of rock ‘n roll and fed on sitcoms such as “Happy Days”, touching down on American soil is far from being a cultural shock. For me, it was more of a revelation.
My next trip, next August, will take me to the Midwest and, if all goes to plan, I should bring back a few great souvenir photos … we’ll just have to wait and see.
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Stéphane Goin may soon drop by your town. Buy him a cup of coffee if you see him. Until then, follow him on tumblr at Mad(e) in USA and 15000 Miles.