28 × 31 cm | 12 × 11 in 120 ills | 160 pages Hardback
Contributors: Margaret Atwood, Nathan Lyons
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American Artifacts is a complex and poetic photographic portrait of America as it simmered its way through the first decade of the twenty-first century. It reflects the span of years that some have called the 'lost' decade. American Artifacts is a personal exploration by an empathetic neighbour—the Canadian documentary photographer Phil Bergerson (b 1947, Toronto).
Much like the discovery process of the archaeologist, Bergerson describes his approach as sifting through the remains of a culture—sifting through the shards of artefacts left behind by a rushing humanity as it made its way through the streets of a tumultuous America. His book is a collection of these message-shards—often ironic, sometimes full of pathos. All represent the concerns of a struggling humanity and its fears, desires and hopes; with many images vibrating between reality and metaphor. A variety of recurring themes are reflected in photographs of shop window displays and in the objects and signs from the forgotten corners of hundreds of towns and cities he visited.
In organising his 120 colour photographs to best portray the complexity of America, Bergerson turned to the art of sequencing as his primary expressive vehicle. Working in the sequencing traditions of Walker Evans, Robert Frank and Nathan Lyons, Bergerson has orchestrated the dynamic interplay between several themes to project their multi-layered meanings.
The book’s photographic sequence is bracketed by two powerful pieces of writing, beginning with Margaret Atwood’s brilliant writing on debt from her book Payback, and ending with Nathan Lyons’ insightful essay, “Sequencing”.