“Places, like people, can seem alone, filled with melancholy,” Tim Richmond introduces his photographs of the American West.
What we get to see in this tome is, well, deserted streets, a train on its way into a vast emptiness, some dilapidated houses, gas stations, bars, a billboard in the middle of nowhere that shows the face of a healthy young boy and next to it these words: “The POINT is: Life begins at conception!,” a church way out there in the prairie (Oglala Sioux Reservation, South Dakota, the caption reads) … it all looks strangely unreal, and somewhat absurd, although I know it to be real for I have seen such places and scenes when travelling through the US.
“Richmond’s American West is a desolate place filled with cowboys (or men who look like cowboys), and the few women are also at least a little rough around the edges,” Jörg Colberg aptly describes the characters shown – who, to me, all seem sad and lost.
I feel profoundly touched by these pics that radiate a certain futility and hopelessness that I sometimes feel liberating. A quote from Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance comes to mind (I quote from memory): The Dakotas do not promise anything and that is why they do not have to live up to anything special.
There’s nothing pretentious, no showing off – the people portrayed do not pose for the photographer. And the few who do, like the woman in a bar in Deadwood, South Dakota, do not make an effort in order to make a favourable impression. That’s the way I am, the woman seems to say.
It’s this unpretentiousness that attracts me, and that I warm to.
“Photographs are associative images – they are Rorschachs,” as my friend, San Francisco-based photographer Emelle Sonh, says.
To me, Tim Richmond’s photographs show neither the American dream nor its opposite. What they show is a very human reality stripped of illusions. The bars, beer cans, and cigarettes illustrate that such a reality is sometimes difficult to bear.
Last Best Hiding Place
by Tim Richmond
Essay by Jörg Colberg
Kehrer, Heidelberg Berlin 2015
For more information and to purchase the book: www.timrichmond.co.uk/por/book-shop/