Like so many people around the world I grew up immersed in American popular culture and ideology. Although an outsider, I have been partly structured by this imagined and projected dream. The American media that consumed me, formed my vision of the USA as a Promised Land that granted a roadmap for life and the promise of success. These influences, amongst many, constructed a model in my mind, both conscious and unconscious, of a society to admire and a dream to pursue.
During the first quarter of 2016, I traveled to the USA in order to begin an exploration into the disconnect between my concept of the American Dream and reality. Diverging Dreamlines, the resulting dummy publication was chosen as one of four “best of show” in the 7th annual photobook exhibition – Griffin Museum of Photography.
The project, photographed in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, explores the expanding economic divide within the United States of America and the fracturing of its Dream.
The majority of the city’s wealthier residents escape to the surrounding suburbs as soon as they can afford to. In response, property developers have created a seemingly limitless supply of suburban housing developments catering for the aspirations of the upwardly mobile. To my eye, these bland housing estates offer dystopian echoes of the film The Truman Show — rather than the warm and fuzzy associations of freedom and adventure found in The Little House on the Prairie. They evoked in me a feeling of stifling claustrophobia; a resistance to a compromised existence in which individuality is surrendered in favor of the perceived security that uniformity and conformity promise.
In contrast, areas such as The Hill, Uptown, Hall Manor, and P-Funk are occupied by large numbers of residents who are unemployed, with many living below the poverty line. In 2010 Forbes magazine rated Harrisburg as the second-best place in the US to raise a family. I suspect that this idyllic accolade would come as a shock to many of the city’s residents living in these areas.