Intro’ – American Jeopardy
12 October 2020

Covid travel restrictions sidelined this project in 2020, [when] I wrote a proposal which began:

“The aim of the American Jeopardy project is to photograph widely across the US, shooting in colour and black and white with analog / film cameras – to produce a visual study and picture essay of the country in this Presidential election year and its aftermath.”

Ongoing developments in the States suggest that far from being past its shelf life, the idea has possibly greater relevance now – approaching 2024’s Presidential Election, than presented two years ago. As a result, I want to connect with Colleges & Universities & explore the potential for a collaborative project.

In the interim, I have been learning and experimenting with silk screen printing & looking at the fractured politics in various countries (e.g. the UK…) & of course the States. ‘American Venn’ – is an early piece in this pursuit.

First proof – American Venn, silk screen print (small scale – 40cm wide), learning technique & colour, which in this version isn’t ‘wrong’ enough, I want the tones to be much darker than they ought to be. (The flag project also includes Russia & the UK.)

And recently, thinking about ideas for how to execute the project, I have started using a 35mm Leica of the same type as Robert Frank used for his book, The Americans – .

American Jeopardy / 2020

– revisited

The photographs are envisaged as portraits, landscapes and the scenes in between.

The inspirations for the project include Robert Frank’s ‘The Americans’, particularly his funding application, whose words seem timeless and an appropriate reference to aspire to:

‘I wish to continue, develop and widen the kind of work I already do, and have been doing for some years, and apply it to the American nation in general.

The material is there: the practice will be in [my] hands, the vision mine.

The uses of my project would be sociological, historical and aesthetic. [The intended purpose] I have in mind is to exhibit the work and book and magazine publication.’

Other key influences for this project are the USA trilogy by John Don Passos, paintings by Robert Bechtle and the documentary style and tone of the UK film maker Adam Curtis.

The work is intended as an apolitical mix of social observation / documentary and art photography. The project continues the pursuit of my longstanding themes and interests – i.e. reflecting on the effect of tech and exponential imagery in the mass perception of reality.

I believe the US is at a generational moment, where accelerating partisanship has created what feels like an unpredictable conjuncture, reminiscent of other significant periods in the sweep of American history – and so laying the foundations of a launch pad to its future. This scenario offers any photographer or artist a small and seductive window of opportunity to investigate. I want to witness the future unfolding, take those photographs and record events for posterity.

The work will be part social documentary and part artistic interpretation. Though a written essay will accompany the pictures, the intention and expectation is to produce images with the weight and depth to speak without explanation.

There is an overarching framework – a timeline, envisaged route (battleground States and some primary cities) and a scope of interaction with both everyday and extraordinary life backdrops sought. But in keeping with Art and life itself, the project’s execution is imagined with flexibility and an expectation of surprise and unexpected.

I am conscious of the enormous storytelling potential but cautious of a slide to nostalgia or traditional tropes. As Frank observed, there’s a value to be derived from the newcomer’s individual inexperience – by not having a fluency in the rhyme and rhythm of another country’s tapestry. ‘They do things differently there’ – which affords the photographer the opportunity of seeing things afresh; form an angle that treats the visual landscape as flat – without being inured to or oblivious to its subtler idioms and syntax.

The vision is bold. Referencing Frank is a tall order. But, as he noted in his own project proposal, one cannot ask for consideration without expressing confidence in achieving the vision and demonstrating an understanding of the depth of application required. I believe that the combination of my previous projects and especially my recent travels prepares me well for a challenge to which I’m keen to commit.

Chris Daly 2024