Disconnectedness, which characterizes the plot of every tale, also informs these photographs by Lou Siroy. A photograph is invariably a study in cognition, one that we are asked to study to know. Where exactly is (was?) the poor bugger of that flattened truck, removed to the basement of the Days Inn just off the highway there? There is eerily no sign of spilled oil or gas! And what of those four tubby-bottomed women all facing the Pacific in the same direction — yearning to be nyads? – like “stout Cortez (sic) staring upon a peak in Darien”? They seem strategically posed and on the cusp of surprise. Is that Pretty Boy Staffs store (“Your Ultimate Pit Stop”) selling collars, leashes, harnesses, and vaccines a certified sex-boutique or a dog shop? And does Big Boy Rims make its money selling tires, gay services, drum-sets, or drinking glass combos? As Nathanael West writes at the end of The Day of the Locust, “Nothing is sadder than the truly monstrous.”
The American Dream. There are as many as they are various. (Do non-Americans understand there are multiple worlds here – mountains, deserts, seasides, coastlines, dank swamplands, cities, farmland?) Look at all those beer-irrigated good ol’ boys poking around that gathering of old all-red detailed custom automobiles. Tableau: Big Yank Jeans with Buttcrack! What is their dream exactly, and is it shared? Did not Vance Packard in his book, The Hidden Persuaders, a study of seduction in advertising, find sexual symbolism in the male attraction to the red convertible? Those fat boys, in another light, could be obstetricians standing around discussing vulvas! Those American shoes! That black dude in the black watch cap seems to make Packard’s point. He is driving his dream, a red controvertible, but seems somewhat dubious about being photographed. I suspect that Mr. Siroy was hoping for the light to turn green, fast.
“Consider the United States, where everything is transformed into images,” writes Roland Barthes in Camera Lucida. “Only images exist and are produced and consumed.” It is a harsh pronouncement, a French attack on our Disneyification here. By this he means that “so-called advanced societies… today consume images and no longer, like those of the past, beliefs.” It is his way of saying that we cling to the stereotypic which is closer to our dreams than the real, even if it is inauthentic. Reflect on the grotesque self-delusion of the would-be Hollywood no-name “insider” – “you gotta know me” she is saying! – who in sending the postcard in that last photograph had not even the correct address, added to which she mindlessly salutes the “Gang”; and in the same way that nowadays almost everybody in this country never fails to, begins her sentence with the word well, a verbal tic that, frightening its universality, reveals the kind of conformity Orwell warned us about. Nothing is sadder than the truly monstrous. It is the disconnectedness of such images that with his camera Siroy allows us to see. He looks into our odd mythology. He captures in moments the punctum – each a puzzle – which offers to us a second sight all our own and which takes us to any place we choose. I have always said that after reading a book or seeing a movie we own it. Same with photography. Looking at a photograph always allows us our own predilection.
Alexander Theroux, September, 2008