Aesthetica Magazine – Interview with Photographer Jeff Brouws, Diffusion Photo Festival, Ffotogallery

Aesthetica

A: In what ways do you think your work interacts with and redefines the common spaces that you depict, particularly in abandoned spaces such as motels and strip malls?JB: Many of the motels I’ve chosen to photograph—older building stock representing the remnants of 1950s two-lane road culture—have seen better days. Instead of being overnight housing for a vacationing family as they once were, they are now sites of prostitution, drug dealing, or temporary shelter for society’s marginalised: the near-homeless, single mothers with children on government aid, or disabled veterans who are under-employed. This scenario is far from the road-trip ideal depicted in those happy road movies from the 1950s and 60s. These images, made in the late 1980 / early 1990s, don’t reflect the optimism of that prior era, but rather speak more about the failure of expectations, and the slow demise of “the dream” where something has gone awry (see Motel Drive, Fresno, 1992; Highway 395, Inyokern, California 1989; Moab, Utah 1992).Another motel image in the exhibition (Incursion V, Green River, Wyoming, 2014) deals with an entirely different issue: corporate America’s subjugation of the landscape and disregard for natural beauty. In this case a Hampton Inn gets built adjacent to historic landforms that once guided 19th century pioneering Americans travelling along the Oregon Trail. This aesthetic despoiling of the countryside is troubling to me. Instead of being sites of community, which the original developers hailed them as, we find alienated shoppers seeking solace by buying more “stuff” amidst a backdrop of stultifying, homogenous architecture, fluorescent lights, and garish display (see Franchised Landscapes #10, #20, #26, and Wal-Mart At Night). Hopefully my photographs highlight the discrepancies between diaphanous myth and concrete reality.



Jeff seems a really nice chap, and was certainly really helpful when I approached him for help for Ruscha’s Gasoline Stations Revisited. I’m hoping to get to Diffusion, although it may well prove difficult, but Jeff’s work would be good to see first hand, not to mention that of Todd Hido…

Source: Aesthetica Magazine – Interview with Photographer Jeff Brouws, Diffusion Photo Festival, Ffotogallery
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