the united states 2003 2013

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Mossless In America: Curran Hatleberg

Mossless in America is a new column featuring interviews with documentary photographers. The series is produced in partnership with Mossless magazine, an experimental photography publication run by Romke Hoogwaerts and Grace Leigh. Romke started Mossless in 2009 as a blog where he interviewed a different photographer every two days, and since 2012 Mossless magazine has produced two print issues, each dealing with a different type of photography.Mossless was featured prominently in the landmark 2012 exhibition Millennium Magazine at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and is supported by Printed Matter, Inc. Their forthcoming third issue, a major photographic volume on American documentary photography from the last ten years titled The United States (2003-2013), will be published this spring.

Curran Hatleberg was one of the first photographers who inspired us to search for more documentary-style photos for the third issue of our magazine. His pictures, taken on roadtrips across America, are honest and naturally ambiguous. Whether it’s a woman with a black eye or a memorial stuck in a tree, Curran’s images make the viewer question the larger, unseen circumstances around his photos.

In this column, we’ll be interviewing a bunch of photographers from the third issue of our magazine, Mossless. Like Curran, the other artists we’ve chosen shoot modern America, capturing the essence of what it’s like to live in this country during this particularly difficult decade.

Mossless: Tell us a memorable story from your travels across America.
Curran Hatleberg: A while back I was sitting in an empty barroom looking out the entrance to a dirty street. The door was propped wide open, framing a perfect view of the foot traffic and cars streaming by in the night. I studied thousands of insects as they whirled and smashed into a streetlight. I watched a nervous, skinny woman flash her gold teeth, then drop an orange rind on the sidewalk. Then I saw a sedan meet a concrete pillar at 50 miles an hour. The car lurched up the pole with vicious agility, going completely vertical before landing upside down. The whole event appeared slow and graceful and very far away. I stared, inactive, for what felt like a very long time, trying to decide if what I saw had actually happened or not. Before I was aware of my movements I was on my knees, breathing hard at the driver’s side window. Everything smelled like gas. Glass and debris were strewn everywhere like confetti. Looking inside, the driver had blood streaming down his face in squiggled paths and was laughing uncontrollably. With the help of another man, I dragged him by the arms out of the window and onto the grass. The driver writhed on the ground in spastic fits of energy. A crowd developed around him, unsure what to do. It all happened very fast, but I clearly remember standing up and seeing one of the car’s tires spinning purposely, as if the road were still underneath it.

How much traveling have you done for your photography?
Thirty-one years’ worth.

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