I have spent a lot of time driving around the United States, visiting many of the places that David Billet and Ian Kline have photographed in Texas is the Reason. My own travels make it utterly stunning to me that the world they have created in their pictures is so different from the one I experienced. I might have expected their work would be a political commentary, but from the pictures, I can’t come to a clear conclusion as to what they think about today’s political climate. All I can deduce is that they have had an impressive experience out on the road. In an America that can be dark and worn, a country where young people, given the right mindset, might be able to get into some trouble or, at the least, had the kind of adventure that makes for good stories and excellent pictures.
David and Ian have done in this work what photography does at its best, make the viewer want to get out into the world, to see if the places are as mesmerizing as they are in the pictures. They have made a body of work, where one learns much about the country. For instance, it is heartening to see that there are still cowboys in the west and, even better, that they are a more diverse bunch than one might imagine. It is also reassuring to see that the west is still full of bright, if slightly paved, open spaces. Yet, there are still aging small towns where gray-haired women linger in darkness and enthusiastic college girls march through the night. This complex portrait of America in David and Ian’s work is what John Szarkowski once described as the hallmark of art, which is “to show us something that we haven’t already seen.” Even in doing this, they still give a respectful tip of the hat to Robert Frank’s View from Hotel Window—Butte, Montana, or countless Walker Evans photographs of buildings and create a mood akin to our greatest of modern day documentarians, David Lynch. The photographs confirm the value of the medium, showing that even after so many have done so before, good photographers can still go out into America and bring back something that is truly their own. Photography like all art, does not have an endpoint; instead it twists and turns and over time, leads to endless surprises.