The Open Road: Justine Kurland

Nov 3, 2014 3:54PM
Justine Kurland's 2010 photograph, "Spare Some Gas," is reproduced fromThe Open Road: Photography and the American Roadtrip, a book that belongs in every serious collection. David Campany describes Kurland's experience traveling America with her infant son Caspar. "Mother and son would travel in their customized van, going south in the winter and north in the summer. As well as photographing people encountered in passing, Kurland would revisit friends and acquaintances living on the edges of society or close to subsistence levels. 'How to photograph such lives is a tricky question,' she admits. 'There's such a mythology around life on the margins. It goes back to John Steinbeck's writing and beyond.' That mythology, coupled with ethical difficulties of depicting the lives of others has put off many contemporary writers and photographers, resulting in further invisibility. 'I believe it's where the social fabric begins to unravel that we can learn about society. I love that part of Let Us Now Praise Famous Menwhere James Agee asks 'Who am I to be writing about the lives of these struggling tenant farmers?' but then asks 'and who are you to be reading these words?' For all the criticisms made of documentary practice I still come back to it.'"
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