‘America at Home’

Sep 21, 2007 5:23pm

"What if you could invite people all over the United States, at the exact same moment, every day, to record one aspect, one component, one slice, of life at home?" asked Rick Smolan. Smolan, a photojournalist who’s turned into a producer of big photographic events, has another one going this week.  In the 1980s he conceived “A Day in the Life of America”–a lavishly illustrated book with pictures by a hundred photographers he assigned around the country.  He followed with others, such as “24 Hours in Cyberspace” and “One Digital Day.” Now, in this post-9/11 era, he’s spent this last week producing “America at Home.” "I think after 9/11 that Americans turned inwards in a very interesting way,” he said when we talked this morning.  “I think there was a sense of–when animals are scared they run back into their nests.  I think we were all quite frightened, and I think we turn back to the things that give you comfort, which is your families, your children, our parents, your bedroom. "And I think we all have this instinctive feeling of going home when we’re under stress." “America at Home” repeats the Day-in-the-Life formula–a hundred professional photographers, deployed around the country from Alaska to Florida, chronicling what people do when they get up in the morning, what happens when they sit down to dinner at night, and everything in between, as long as it has to do with home. “How do you turn your house into a home?  That’s the overarching theme of the project,” he said. When Smolan began such projects, pictures were shot on film, and good pictures were mostly shot by the pros.  But photography, like so many other things in the digital age, has been opened up–240 million Americans have cell phones, most of them with cameras built in. So Smolan is inviting everyone–anyone with an image they like of home life–to upload their favorites to a website.  Some of them are already on an online map; more will be in the book that results. "This is everyday, ordinary people telling extraordinary stories about their lives through photography, because photography’s pretty easy, and the cameras are getting pretty good as well." “America at Home” is a commercial venture: in addition to the book, Smolan says they plan a web version and an exhibition.  But beyond that, he says, he hopes to create a chronicle for the future, so that people will know what we looked like, back in 2007, when we came home at the end of the day.
(Photo: Jackie and Robert Harvey say grace before dinner with their five sons.  Image copyright Ben Garvin/America at Home Project.  Used with permission.)

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