Now, more than ever, our everyday lives and experiences are seen as fodder for digital display, archive and abstraction on the internet - Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, Tumblr, Flickr. This unmediated access is proof of the internet’s democracy; it allows a variety of participants to create and share their own content, relying on the virtue and quality of that content for it to spread. In essence, it’s a medium “Of, for, and by the people.” However, something like 95% of the web hosts in the world belong to less than 15% of the (richest) world population, ie: The West. One could say that the internet functions as a democratic mirror, reflecting the political, economic and cultural voices of the West and, ultimately, an American interest in itself.
Among Flickr's "Explored" HDR photos of flowers, babies, sunsets and kittens, some quality fine art photographers can be found. In my daily monitoring of the site since 2005, I’ve found a little niche of American documentary photographers and dissenters reacting against the digital ugliness and monotony of the web, resulting in the creation of their own everyday cult.
Both based in Austin, Keith Davis Young and Matthew Genitempo echo the discord of 1970’s New Topographic photographers, even shooting in analog film and appropriating their romantic, yet objective, observer aesthetic. Their return to film is a contrarian reaction against digital, in a way; but more so, their choice of medium is more relfective of a yearning for something raw, real and authentic. It’s safe to say Young and Genitempo have seen William Eggleston’s Democratic Forest, Robert Frank’s The Americans, Stephen Shore’s Uncommon Places and Joel Sternfeld’s American Prospects. Shot predominantly in the Western US, their photographs echo Kerouac’s On The Road or Twain’s Huck Finn. These images are just as much about the drive as the destination. Like their literary and visual predecessors, Young and Genitempo explore the meaning of equality and American living using light, moment, and weather as counterpoints. Their images present surrealist ironies while finding poignancy and understanding in the realm of the frame.
Given the current American climate, with concerns of environmentalism, shifting ideas of public and private (thanks to the internet), a never-ending war, and a questioning of domestic patriotism, it’s of no surprise that creatives are returning to this Emersonian form of dissent. There is an overall feeling that America has lost direction and the future of the Great Experiment is, once again, in question. With their strong desire for authenticity in medium and content, Young and Genitempo have accomplished what Emerson’s Nature asks of us: To, “Build, therefore, your own world.”