A New American Picture. Photographs by Doug Rickard. White Press/Schaden.com 2010. Unpaged (92 pp). Oblong quarto. SIGNED and numbered edition of 200. Hardbound. Printed boards. No jacket as issued. Color reproductions. Selected as one of the Best Books of 2010 by: John Gossage, Martin Parr (who also selected it as one of his Best Books of the Decade) and orten Andersen. |
"This small edition of images grabbed from Google Street View is a wonderful and poignant book. By trawling through the back streets of America and images usually including pedestrians with their faces blurred by Google, we see how this new twist to street shooting, by a camera on top of a car, is very good indeed."--Martin Parr
Since A New American Picture was widely hailed as one of the best photobook publications of 2010, Doug Rickard has been on a roll: work from the series was included in the Museum of Modern Art's prestigious New Photography show for 2011. Aperture picked up the impossibly rare first edition (which was only 200 copies!) and re-issued it last year to still more acclaim! (Read Karen Jenkins' review in photo-eye Magazine. Concurrent with that publication Rickard had a solo show at Yossi Milo Gallery in New York.
"Doug Rickard (American, born 1968) studied United States history and sociology at the University of California, San Diego, before moving to photography. He has drawn on this background in research for his series A New American Picture, which focuses on places in the United States where unemployment is high and educational opportunities are few. On a virtual road trip, Rickard located these sites remotely using the Street View feature of the website Google Maps, which has mapped and photographed every street in the country. Scrutinizing the Google Maps pictures, he composed images on his computer screen, which he then photographed using a digital camera. The resulting pictures—digitally manipulated to remove the Google watermark and cropped to a panoramic format—comment on poverty and racial equity in the United States, the bounty of images on the web, and issues of personal privacy."--Museum of Modern Art
"It was William Eggleston who coined the phrase “photographing democratically” but Rickard has used Google’s indiscriminate omniscience to radically extend this enterprise – technologically, politically and aesthetically...
"The spots chosen by Rickard are in the economically ravaged fringes of cities: the waste lands and desolate roads that form the constant backwash of America’s broken promise. These places are populated by stray figures, strays both in the sense that they have wandered into the car’s 360-degree view, but also because they have strayed from the path of prosperity – or more accurately, the path to prosperity has passed them by. Loping baggily across the road, these forlorn figures look like they will never quite make it to the opposite kerb, as if they have been cut adrift, are stranded perpetually in the limbo of late capitalism.
"The series contains obvious echoes of photographs made by Evans in the 1930s, with the vernacular signage – 'AMERICAN COLLISION, SUPER FAIR' – serving a similarly choric function. The shifting spirit of Robert Frank seems also to be lurking, as if the Google vehicle were an updated incarnation of the car in which he made his famous mid-50s road trip to produce his photographic series, The Americans. As with these two illustrious predecessors there is a strange beauty – sad, lyrical , unconsoled – in this latest virtual installment of the American photographic safari-odyssey. We end up not with the pristine clarity of an Evans or the hurried, side-long glance of a Frank but with a shimmer and blur, a washed-out and defining imprecision. Colours are simultaneously enhanced and drained by whatever processes Rickard has put them through. Sometimes the sky gets rinsed out, other times it has a vestige of the turquoise ache of the Super-8 of old (the colour of optimism, of economic growth for all). All of which contributes to the sense that we are seeing ghost towns – or ghost streets – in the process of formation."--Geoff Dyer, Street View: On Photographers' Appropriation of Google Maps, The Believer, June, 2012
"[Rickard] reckons he ended up with 10-15,000 shots which have been edited down to about 80 for his series...The results are stunning and disturbing, not least because the people in the shots don’t know or don’t care if they are being photographed. In New Orleans, four black kids stroll down a desolate street under a livid sky. In the Bronx, the blurred figure of a man in a suit hovers menacingly outside a closed grocery store. In Dallas, a white dog beside a dead tree and a bleached-out yard glances round at Google’s passing car. Or — my favourite — in Fresno, a man wearing a white hat sits in a wheelchair in a dirt yard. Behind him there is a truck and a shabby ranch-style house. Everything seems to be fading to beige but for the sharp blue wheelie bins. The man is watching the car, he has nothing else to do.
These pictures are redemptions. There was always something intrusive and robotic about the Street View project, but there was also something philistine, a crude reduction of the photographic method and of the wonders of the golden age to a mechanized ordinariness. But, by a relentless editing process and a clear purpose, Rickard redeems photography from the morass of digital imagery by giving it real- world substance. 'The super-important thing, ultimately,' he says, 'is that I was using Google but it's not about Google, it’s about America.'"--Bryan Appleyard, 'They've Been Framed,' Sunday Times, December 11, 2011