Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Flag Day

    This post is a bit late for celebrating Flag Day 2010 (June 14) but I didn't want to go another year without sharing these photographs.   

    I took these pictures 7 or 8 years ago.  I still lived in Las Vegas, NV and I was still using a film camera.  These images were scanned from negatives.  I haven't laid hands on that camera in 5 years.  

   I recently digitized these because a friend of mine played host to an event wherein a bunch of art curators had a slide show looking for new "talent."  Everyone voted for their favorite at the end of the night.  Or something like that.  I wanted to be a part of it and these pics came to mind.  These images were never given public exposure after I took them.  A few friends got to see them and remarked how much they liked them.  I gotta agree.  Bold, overly dramatic, and throughly obnoxious.  But also picturesque and demanding a storyline which is never provided.  Maybe I'm reading too much into it?  

    I always hoped someone would agree with me that these are art-worthy and hang them in a gallery even though it's beating a dead cliche.  The shock and yawn of the politics on display here is played out and maybe even boring to todays eyes.  When I look at these images it's not politics I see at work it's the destruction of American values and the destruction wrecked by those values leading to the ultimate fall of the giant industry that is American society.  I guess it's impossible to separate the politics from these pics huh?  Still I see an atmosphere here which is more akin to a Mad Max apocalypse than anti-imperialist protest cliches.  But the two go hand in hand anyway so why choose up sides?
    I submitted the photo at the top for this art-event but then I ended up missing the whole thing because I got the time wrong.  I'm such an idiot.  I'm always been curious to see how people react to these but I guess I'll never be able to see it.  Hopefully someone out there loves me or hates me for this.

    I mean no offense to veterans.  I'm sure any apology I give won't mean shit to you anyway so I won't even bother apologizing.  The more I think about it the more I have to wonder how shocking these images are in today's world?  Even maybe to veterans- but what the fuck do I know?

    I should ask my dad to check these pictures out.  I'm sure he wouldn't care one way or the other at this point.  Although I remember him coming home after a few drinks after work and telling me he'd kick my ass if I wiped my ass with the flag or something like like.  Yeah maybe I'll ask him to look at these sometime.  He's a veteran.  

    I like what these photos represent.  It's what I look for in art.  It's easy to decipher.  It might be a little trite but it forces you to be a part of it and it's a release that is loud and in your face.    

    The end of America found in the ruins of a deserted landscape.  That's all that's left.  Desolation.  Emptiness.   It's celebrated in a last futile gesture on top of a mountain.  I imagine smoke rising in different spots on the desert floor hundreds of feet below.  Smoke can be seen suffocating the valley off in the distance, which appears to be civilization.  That valley is... you guessed it Las Vegas, Nevada.    

    Can you tell this is the view from on top of a mountain?  If not then perhaps you have never been on top of a mountain.  I did not manipulate these images in any way.  No photoshop.  Nothing digital was used aside from the scanner for the negatives.  The camera used was a Minolta STsi Maxxum.  It might have a digital interface.  I'm not sure but I know it's a film camera.

    These photographs were an accident.  After all that 9/11 bullshit was going down and then the rush to go to war with Iraq escalated I was a pretty disillusioned with the world and my role in it.  I can't sugarcoat it. I fucking hated America.  I couldn't sleep from staying awake burning in my own anger.  I felt so powerless I more or less dug a hole after moving to Portland.  Can I still be your friend if I admit I just got wasted everyday for two years?  These photographs being the last creative thing I did before sleeping it off for three years.  Did I say four years?  Who knows how long it's been?

    I did not plan to take these pictures.  The last year that I lived in Vegas I took to going on a few solo hikes outside the valley.  One day I decided to hike Lava Butte, the small black mountain that can be seen to the South behind Frenchmen Mountain.  If you're headed east on Tropicana you can see it pretty clearly.  I'd been there before with friends.  It's not too formidable a climb and it allows a great view of Lake Mead and Las Vegas without the hassle/hell of climbing Frenchmen.  

    Still it was a difficult climb that day.  Making my way to the top out of breath my heart sank when I saw this American flag planted at the top.  Even in the middle of nowhere in my solitude I was given reminders of the bullshit turn my country had taken.  Even something as innocuous as this was to me a slap in the face.  I was taking it personally.  But what more or less could I have done?  I was alone at the narrow summit of a mountain I just climbed!  I worked hard to get here you fuckin assholes.    

    I still smoked cigarettes at that time so I fumbled for a lighter as soon as I saw the flag, but caught myself.  Shit.  Didn't I bring my camera up here?  I sat down.  Smoked my cigarette and planned out the shoot which would need to happen quickly.  Who knows how long this flag would burn?  It was made in China so could go up like a dried out Christmas tree two weeks after New Years.  Gotta be quick and ready to get at least three or four shots off.  

    Strangely that desert wind didn't want to blow that day even on top of a mountain.  That worked to my advantage and in flash the flag ablaze and I was able to capture some gold.  

    These images tell a story.  Many stories.  Hopefully you can see some of those stories as well from your own point of view.  

    I can't speak to how I feel about my country today 7 days after Flag Day 2010.  My opinion changes so often it's hard to keep track.  I love my America but that doesn't mean I love your America.  Chances are good I hate your America.  I'm hoping this will be the way America celebrates Flag Day someday in the distant future.  In the meantime I'm content to remember the time when I was on top of the world and I destroyed America.  I wish you coulda been there.  But then it probably wouldn't have been the same.       

    If you like em feel free to take these images direct from this page.  If you would like a high quality scan of these images please download them below.  Makes a great screensaver!

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