Diane Arbus, Walker Evans, Stephen Shore, William Eggleston, Robert Adams, Robert Frank. Ever since British photographer George Georgiou began studying the craft when he was 18, he’s been fascinated by the work of legendary photographers who have offered their own takes on America. “The U.S. is a such a well-documented country,” he told In Sight. “I was particularly taken by the sadly now-late Robert Frank’s ‘The Americans’ and how he traveled across the states documenting a fractured society in a personal, poetic and, what felt to me, a raw and real way.”
It’s with such inspiration that Georgiou embarked on his own attempt to document the sprawling United States. His images show Americans as they stand on the side of roads across the country, waiting for and watching street parades — from Independence Day parades to Mardi Gras or Thanksgiving processions.
The photos will be the subject of an upcoming book, for which Georgiou is raising funds on Kickstarter.
“I have always been interested in looking at the politics of the street and how we use and interact in public,” said Georgiou, whose previous work explored the ever-evolving topography of London’s streets. “The difficulty in the U.S. is that, in so many towns and cities, the streets have so few people on them, the country is really designed around the car. I would only know a place through its reputation and the state of its architecture; the community was invisible.”
But when parades take to the streets, that’s when communities come together. “It becomes visible, and many of the preconceived ideas that you may have of that community disappear,” he added.
Georgiou was deliberate in his approach, always keeping a certain distance from the crowds while encompassing the environment in his frame to give each image the same weight, he said. “This was crucial, as I knew there was going to be a lot of people and movement in the image,” he said. That allows for viewers to focus on people’s expressions, how they interact with and behave around each other.
The result is a series of tableaux, as Georgiou calls them, that tell the stories of these environments and communities, highlighting the economic and racial contexts of each parade as well as modern-day codes of behavior in these groups. “I think that the strength of the work is that we could be looking at ourselves,” he told In Sight. “We could be in the photos. The anonymity and sheer volume of the different faces blur into a kind of abstract familiarity; in each picture, we find ourselves searching, inadvertently, for somebody we know.”
In the end, Georgiou’s goal is either noble or naive, depending on the degree of cynicism among his readers. “I want people to be able to look at and recognize each other without fear and prejudice,” he said, admitting that whether he’s successful is something he cannot control. But that’s something many of Georgiou’s renowned peers have had to face, too — and they’ve proved, like Georgiou’s upcoming book surely will, that there’s still much that can be said about America and its people.
George Georgiou’s “American Parades” will be released next month and can be purchased from the photographer’s Kickstarter page.
In Sight is The Washington Post’s photography blog for visual narrative. This platform showcases compelling and diverse imagery from staff and freelance photographers, news agencies and archives. If you are interested in submitting a story to In Sight, please complete this form.
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