by Coll.eo

A New American Dream consist of digital photographs of San Francisco streets, grabbed, cropped, and manipulated by the artists from Google Street View, printed as 4 x 6 inch postcards and set on a wooden postcard rack and fifteen 5 x 1 inch walnut wooden postcard holders. This project is ongoing.

Full Description


The project was inspired, among other things, by

1) Vilem Flusser's Toward a Philosophy of Photography (1983). The following passages were particularly relevant for us:

“The camera functions on behalf of the photographic industry, which functions on behalf of the industrial complex, which functions on behalf of the socio-economic apparatus, as so on. The question of ownership of the apparatus is therefore irrelevant; the real issue is who develops its program” (pp. 29-30)

"The photographic universe is a means of programming society - with absolute necessity but in each individual case by chance (i.e. automatically) - to act as a magic feedback mechanism for the benefit of a combination game, and of the automatic reprogramming of society into dice, into pieces in the game, into functionaries.” (p. 70)

To be in the photographic universe means to experience, to know and to evaluate the world as a function of photographs. Every single experience, every single bit of knowledge, every single value can be reduced to individually known and evaluated photographs. And every single action can be analyzed through punctuated elements (into ‘bits’), is already familiar: It is the world of robots. The photographic universe and all apparatus-based universes robotize the human being and society.” (p. 70)

“[I]t is the task of current cultural criticism to analyze this restructuring of experience, knowledge, evaluation and action into a mosaic of clear and distinct elements in every single cultural phenomenon. [...] Within such cultural criticism, the camera will prove to be the ancestor of all those apparatuses that are in the process of robotizing all aspects of our lives, from one’s most public acts to one’s innermost thoughts, feelings and desires.” (p. 71)

A number of human beings are struggling against this automatic programming: photographers who attempt to produce informative images, i.e. photographs that are not part of the program of apparatus; critics who attempt to see what is going on in the automatic game of programming; and in general, all those who are attempting to create a space for human intention in a world dominated by apparatuses. However, the apparatuses themselves automatically assimilate these attempts at liberation and enrich their programs with them. It is consequently the task of a philosophy of photography to expose this struggle between human beings and apparatuses in the field of photography and to reflect on a possible solution to the conflict” (pp. 74-75)

2) This KQED interview with Doug Rickard.

3) Joerg Corberg's essay, "A Photo of a Man I Took Downtown that He asked me to Delete it. I Did" published on April 3, 2013 on Conscientious.

4) Greg Gopman's Facebook post on December 11, 2013 (source: Sam Biddle)

"Just got back to SF. I've traveled around the world and I gotta say there is nothing more grotesque than walking down market st in San Francisco. Why the heart of our city has to be overrun by crazy, homeless, drug dealers, dropouts, and trash I have no clue. Each time I pass it my love affair with SF dies a little.

The difference is in other cosmopolitan cities, the lower part of society keep to themselves. They sell small trinkets, beg coyly, stay quiet, and generally stay out of your way. They realize it's a privilege to be in the civilized part of town and view themselves as guests. And that's okay.

In downtown SF the degenerates gather like hyenas, spit, urinate, taunt you, sell drugs, get rowdy, they act like they own the center of the city. Like it's their place of leisure... In actuality it's the business district for one of the wealthiest cities in the USA. It a disgrace. I don't even feel safe walking down the sidewalk without planning out my walking path.

You can preach compassion, equality, and be the biggest lover in the world, but there is an area of town for degenerates and an area of town for the working class. There is nothing positive gained from having them so close to us. It's a burden and a liability having them so close to us. Believe me, if they added the smallest iota of value I'd consider thinking different, but the crazy toothless lady who kicks everyone that gets too close to her cardboard box hasn't made anyone's life better in a while." (Greg Gopman, December 11, 2013)

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Artist Statement


Hello everybody. I am a white upper middle class photographer. I live in a rich suburban town outside Sacramento and I grew up in Silicon Valley.

I like to take pictures of my computer monitor with my expensive Nikon.

I have recently discovered that wealth inequality is a huge problem in America. Racism too. In fact, I was browsing Google Street Views with a beer in my hand and I saw several homeless people in San Francisco.

I decided to document this sad phenomenon which contradicts the spirit of the American Dream. In fact, as James Truslow Adams wrote in 1931, "life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement" regardless of social class or circumstances of birth." And that includes the homeless. I have therefore called my project A New American Dream.

It is very poetic because art is about ideas. It is about how you are wired. It is about what you have to say.

I am giving visibility to invisible individuals and that makes me feel good. Look! These people camp on the sidewalk. They have tents and carts. They are a new metropolitan tribe. Look at this guy in front of the designer store! Look at this guy sitting next to the alternative art gallery in Potrero Hill. All these images truly resonate with me and with my upbringing. I remember the first time I saw Google Street View. It was a true epiphany. I was elated. I was floored. And the wheels were turning. I took my iPhone, designed in Cupertino, and I started taking snapshots at my screen, moving around the cursor to find the best possible angle, composing these amazing scenes. I have captured the sense of claustrophobia and decay of the American dream. And it is really happening. And I find it really poetic. And my photos challenge the viewer. Almost provoke him. And I see myself as an editor floating in an endless ocean of potential. I offer the viewer Bresson-like moment of revelation. I replicated the Shore-like color palette. I mastered the vivid colors of Eggleston photographs. I mimic Anthony Hernandez' style. This project is about multiple things working in conjunction. You know, there are so many layers.

Besides, I am making a quick buck, too. My photographs have been bought by the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco! Seriously, they are now in the permanent collection.

The important curator says that she “was blown away by my work”. The important curators says that my point of view is “very sophisticated and very educated". In fact, I zoom in and out and even crop the images myself. As you can tell, I was very attuned to composition.

The important curator says that "I am following the steps of Walker Evans and Robert Frank".

The important curator says that I am a "social photographer”.

The important curator says that in fact “have redefined what it means to be a photographer”.

The important curator says that my work is “art” but that also has "a deep political message". Go figure.

I have sold the photographs originally taken by the detached, removed eyes of Google Street cars for thousands of dollars in upscale art galleries.

At this point, my intellectual capital is second only to my economic capital! Above all, I don't even have to drive around the Tenderloin, or, God forbid, interact with these people in the streets.

This is A New American Dream.

COLL.EO is Colleen Flaherty and Matteo Bittanti

San Francisco, March 6, 2014


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