My America

Christopher Morris is an accomplished photographer who has covered many conflicts during his 18 year career. Following the birth of his daughters he became more interested in his homeland and turned his camera on the administration of the nation. This, his first book, is the result of his work as a contract photographer for Time magazine covering the inner circle of George W Bush.

The pictures are quite impersonal. The photographer found himself more detached as the assignment continued, capturing the President very rarely. Instead we see the fervour of the people around him. We see the secret service agents, who come across as almost robotic, like something from science fiction. Their suits are immaculate, faces inscrutable and small strange wires disappearing into their suits. Throughout the book they are lurking in dark car parks, carefully sweeping deserted rural fields or in one particular picture peering from behind an enormous letter “w” on a rooftop. I suspect that there were agents behind every letter of the sign, but the “w” is a perfect compliment to the picture. I find myself wondering what the sign read. Wal-Mart perhaps

The cover image sets the tone for the whole book, which shows the Stars and Stripes in many guises. From ‘headless’ T-shirts to large drapes across the huge hall. One of the most striking is an elaborately iced cake, each slice to be served with its own tiny flag. Morris has chosen to shoot the cake alone in a dark corner, which has turned an ordinary piece of confectionery into a poignant symbol of a nation.

The thing that really stands out is that the people he has photographed, are often unseen – a bejewelled cleavage gets out of a Mercedes and we have no need to identify the owner. There are several portraits showing glamorous women from their perfect lipstick down, which are then followed by one of the rare appearances by the President, again from the chest down with his hands as the only human detail. Where Morris has chosen to photograph a face it is that and that alone that we see. Awestruck youths open mouthed at the spectacle, experienced soldiers looking grave and proud and of course the omnipresent secret service agents.

The book has no captions other than a location and date for each image, which encourages the reader to come to their own conclusion of what is being portrayed, although Morris firmly directs the reader with his precise composition and fantastic use of colour. The overall impression is of a fantastic body of work taking a very sideways look at the current administration and giving a very different view from the usual images we see from the White House through the wire services.SB




All Rights Reserved © foto8 2006