Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Living in the WalMart Carpark, Pueblo, Colorado

Sometimes you just can't help but fall down the photographic rabbit hole that is Americana. No matter how much it's 'done', there's no denying that there's an enduring complicity between the myth of America and the photographic process that continues to lure you in.

Perhaps it has something to do with the openness of the American people and their sense of pride no matter what the circumstances.

And none more so than these forgotten images of a guy I photographed living in the car park of a WalMart on the outskirts of Pueblo that was lingering on my hard drive from a working trip to Colorado back in July.

Initially I was attracted from a distance by the shortening light, the giant Cadillac neatly framed against the backdrop of a set of Golden Arches, another endlessly repeated scene of the new America, beige beige and more beige. Strip mall after strip mall...

I got a bit closer and noticed that the back of the car was completely stuffed with clothing and possessions and it was then that I noticed a man sitting staring at me. His name is written down in a notebook somewhere with a suitably wistful commentary on the scene but it escapes me for now.

I asked if he minded me taking his picture and we struck up a conversation.

Caught in a moment I walked up to the window to chat and was again caught by surprise when I peered into the car only to find his mother, very elderly and sitting in the driving seat. They were from Oklahoma he said, lost their home and were heading west. She seemed to be ill and nodded vaguely as I recounted my flimsy reasons for also being in the WalMart car park in Pueblo, Colorado.

It was a strange moment of transition; a scene of quiet Americana, of signs and icons had suddenly become a scene of genuine human struggle. The packed interior of the car which I first thought quirky, abandoned at the bottom of a mammoth car park, was suddenly transformed into somewhere where this odd couple, a family really, had chosen to settle for however long they planned on being there.

It was then that I realised, as photography so often allows, that this couple, for that moment, were happy to have the company, for someone to have taken a genuine interest even for that slightly uncomfortable moment while I clicked the shutter. They weren't embarrassed by their situation, nor was I interested in their story as some kind of journalistic insight, it just was.

I wished them well and went back to WalMart.

God bless America.


S. Kahlon said...

I love this post, and those pictures, so much.

Anonymous said...

I'll second that!