Doug Rickard

A New American Picture


Doug Rickard (born in San Jose, California, 1968) studied U.S. history and sociology at UC San Diego. He is the founder of American Suburb X and These Americans, aggregating websites for essays on contemporary photography and historical photographic archives.

Over a period of two years 2009 – 2010 Rickard became immersed in the comprehensive image archive of Google Street View to virtually drive through some of the most economically depressed areas of America – the unseen and overlooked roads, bleak places that are forgotten, economically devastated, and abandoned. The virtual eye enables him to go places that would be difficult otherwise. Collectively, these images present a startling photographic portrait of the socially disenfranchised, providing deeply affecting evidence of the American Dream inverted.

“I think that I chose pictures that partially represented those biases and media-affected notions of place, and yet I explored immensely these American places, a thousand hours or more, gaining an understanding of the conditions.” Political and social perspective ‘drive-by’ photography.manipulates to heighten sense of isolation – people cordoned off in terms of lacking a voice, from power.

In Google Street View, the absence of an engaged eye through which to interpret its images can lend them an eerie quality. “The height gives a feeling of looking down on the scene, and this affects the emotional read and subtext of the work,” There are different types of google cameras. High resolution tends to be for tourist areas. Some lower resolution for less ‘attractive’ areas.  He finds the digital pixellation poetic. Rickard said. “Also, Google’s blurring of the faces and the lo-fi nature of the images changed the individuals into symbols or emblems and representative of larger notions, such as race and class, instead of personal stories that would have wanted to emerge with recognition.” His appropriation of these images, he said, is what makes them a valid form of photography. “I wanted to represent the inverse of the American Dream, and yet the work is also very personal and subjective, colored by my choices and selection,” he said. “The very definition of photography is expanding. Personally, I am ecstatic about it, and I see a massive frontier that is unfolding to feed and fuel my obsessions.”

Issue is cropping and editing from a sea of digital images. He looks for stories and ‘decisive moment’ – the colour of Shore and Egglestone. Composition where things line up. He rephotographs the machine-made images as they appear on his computer screen, framing and freeing them from their technological origins.  Experimenting with geometry and distortions.

A limited-edition monograph of A New American Picture was published by White Press/Schaden in 2010. It was named a best book of 2010 by photo-eye magazine and is now out of print. This edition brings Rickard’s provocative series, including more than forty new images, to a wider audience. His images have become part of an international conversation .In 2011, A New American Picture was included in the annual New Photography exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. A solo exhibition is planned for fall 2012 at Yossi Milo Gallery, New York.

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