The duality of the American System

This is a photographic essay of the current divides of a post-2008 America, a nation of divides but also of inherent traditions.

As you travel throughout the United States, you come to realise the permeating sense of division on a societal level, divisions which can be seen on both economic, ethnic and social levels, divisions which pockmark a nation of great diversity. Yet paradoxically when we look at the bigger picture, these divisions shape a society of enormous economic and cultural wealth, for as it stands today the U.S is the world leader of a basically unipolar international system when it comes to output on a “macro level.”

But what happens if we observe it from a ground level; from the day to day lives its people, the streets they walk and the cities they frequent, what story do they tell us?

What they do show us, is how the American Dream in a post-2008 America has two very distinct faces, two sides which exist in parallel of an economic and social barrier, two sides which i’ve striven experience and observe.

As you walk along the well kept streets of Lexington, Massachusetts, you quickly notice that a town so central to American history has been preserved and naturally fields a demographic of high income earners. It cements the image of a picturesque east coast town; with it’s town green, first church and draped star spangled banners, all is quiet, all is calm, the image of “quintessential America” remains intact.

Yet it wouldn’t be amiss to remember that millions reside in inner city blocks such as here in downtown Philadelphia, where the marks of economic turmoil run deep, dilapidated and abandoned houses line the streets, buildings in ruin can often be juxtaposed by gleaming new glass tower blocks. Vivid visual reminders of the human gaps which exist very openly in the everyday America.

These fractured urban landscapes often stand in silence, as the world around them moves on, factors which allow for interesting and though provoking juxtapositions of peoples, architecture and lives, such as this example in Albany, New York with the towns oldest building, having fallen in disrepair now stands next to a half filled car park and an over expanded freeway system.

This idea of emptiness is a common theme as you travel across the U.S, where you see the remains of over ambitious projects from times of regional economic growth, landscape features which merely remain as the world moves on and forgets about them.

This post-2008 emptiness can be embodied by block after block of empty office spaces; spaces where once life reigned, we’re careers where made, deals where struck yet now stand dormant such as here just minutes from the Capitol Building.

Yet wherever we look we see people hard at work making a living, many of whom aren’t working in most favourable of conditions, such as here, one hundred metres up in 40c heat. Such determination is embodied in the spirit of which the U.S was founded upon and also indicates how a country which carries immense economic burdens, has seen a revitalisation on a grassroots level, showing us that individual actions are significant in the greater polity of such a diverse nation as the U.S.

More is however needed to shift the old and tired trends of yesteryear. But some milestones can be claimed, as the hope of the nation’s founding fathers still resonates in many of the people you meet, that of inherent self-determination in being the master of your own fate, still rings true in many cases.

A fascinating prospect for an ever changing world.

These images are taken in conjunction to a field work expedition through the N.E USA and Canada, June – July 2014; to read more about this Bridge Builder Expedition, please see:

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