The concept of vernacular photography as art or document is well established, but rarely is one person’s view of their world revealed in such quantity and - unlike most found snapshots - so carefully arranged to represent the subjects exactly as they wished.Bill Woods, a commercial studio photographer in Fort Worth, Texas, left his life’s work behind when he died in 1973. Much was lost or discarded but 20,000 negatives were acquired by Diane Keaton who, in turn, donated them to ICP. The result is a book and exhibition which present a mundane yet surreally-perfect picture of 50s and 60s America through corporate and family portraits, product shots, sporting events and advertisements.
Santa Claus waves from a boat, a man hacks into a cake with an axe, a year’s supply of Kleenex is offered as a free with the purchase of a Pontiac. These rather bizarre – owing to lack of descriptions - events sit happily alongside eerie funeral portraits, empty new homes, salesmen and smiling sports teams. Nowhere is a hair out of place or smile missed and yet the images retain a genuine sense of reality and create a fascinating insight into a town at the height of the American Dream.