Once Upon a Time in the West
These photographs were made on the eroding sets and locations of Sergio Leone’s celebrated 1960s “Spaghetti Westerns”, deep in the Almerian deserts of southern Spain. For several years I have pursued work concerned with the propagation of American myths abroad, as well as notions of how the “American vision” has been applied to landscapes and cultures throughout the world. Recently, I became fascinated by the notion that a fundamental American archetype – the Wild West, and its associations with freedom, rebelliousness, brutality, morality, honour and so on – had been transposed by an Italian film director onto the landscape of Franco’s Spain, and subsequently came to define this “quintessentially American” genre in itself. Furthermore, I was particularly interested in trying to discover what these sets – flimsy, worn and weathered, but still standing 40 years on – might insinuate about the state of America: its ideals, reputation, ambitions, visions and illusions today.
The premise behind the series is more openly based around Aristotle’s classic three-act structure, with the place itself (and all of its nostalgic/mythic American resonance and references) being the main protagonist of the story. Therefore, the first chapter, the interiors chapter, serves as the “setup” – introducing the internal character, nature and atmosphere of the environment itself; the second exteriors chapter serves as the “confrontation” with the surrounding (Spanish) landscape, and the relationship that has developed between the fiction and the fact of the place itself; the action/third chapter serves as the “climax and resolution” of this confrontation, in this case a tragic end whereby the fictional inhabitants of the place are either departing or dead, and the environment itself has been reduced to dust with only traces of the fiction remaining.