B. Wells Douglas
B. Wells Douglas
"AMERICHROME" uses an archive of vernacular 35mm slides, taken by unknown people of seemingly innocuous events, to construct digital spaces. The slides were all created between the 1940s and the 1990s and depict middle class white Americans. The spaces created in AMERICHROME highlight and critique many of the issues that have been occurring in the U.S. for centuries. In particular, the U.S. narrative – historically and contemporarily – that prioritizes the innocence and entitlement of white middle class citizens. I began collecting photographs after my mom tasked me with scanning old family photos. The images and stories were captivating. Through this work I question the way people documented the world around them. How did they capture the issues facing society today in their photographs?
I began collecting 35mm slides from estate sales, online sellers, donations, and social media; it was easy to find discarded slides. I received all of the slides without knowing what was on them. Many people do not know what to do with their family slides because they no longer have a way to view them.
The vast majority of the found photographs are images of white people. Often, they are capturing special events, like birthdays, graduations, holiday parties, or a family vacation. I am intrigued by the different ways men and women were represented in these family archives. Middle class white stereotypes and gender norms of misogyny and labor division became apparent the more I looked through the slides. The white colonization of public space and resources as well as high levels of consumption; food, cars, housing, and a casual attitude towards guns was painfully obvious.
I am fascinated with the development of vernacular photography and the social story that is inadvertently told through who and what is documented by those with access to cameras. The images in isolation could not speak to the larger issues and feeling that the collection as a whole showed. Due to this, digitally constructed spaces from the archive became the vehicle for making these themes clear. "AMERICHROME" visually expresses concerns with gun control, resource availability, public spaces, gender roles confronting today's youngest generations. This work has been a way to better understand contemporary U.S. history through the manipulation of discarded images which contextualizes the roots of our current crises.