In 1966, American artist Dan Graham published an article about typical one-family homes in ordinary American suburbs built after World War II. He used a cheap Kodak Instamatic camera, with a deliberately amateur approach. In this article, I wrote a tribute to him with a series of photos taken in the suburbs of my city, Como, using my pretty Diana Mini camera. Read more after the jump!
Dan Graham, born in 1942, is a multi-faceted individual. He is a photographer, an artist, a curator, and a writer. I discovered him reading an interesting book titled “New Topographics”, which contains works of Robert Adams, Levis Baltz, Bernd and Hilla Becker, Stephen Shore, and other great specialists of man-altered landscape photography. Inside the book there is a page of his work, published in 1966 in the Arts Magazine and titled “Homes for America.” This is considered his most important photographic work.
In this article, he wrote: “Large-scale, tract housing developments constitute the new city. They are located everywhere. They are not particularly bound to existing communities, they fall to develop either regional characteristics or separate identity.”
This kind of architecture dates from the end of the World War II, when many builders (and also some speculators) adapted mass production techniques to build houses for defense workers located mainly in Southern California.
For a tribute to Dan Graham, I took a series of photos in the suburbs of my city, Como, where there are many houses and buildings under construction, following a style departing from the history and tradition of my city and my region (Como is a wonderful town with Roman traces, with a wonderful lake and a pretty historical center made of narrow streets of cobblestone).
Houses are built near the industrial zone, or in empty spaces without a public square. When and where there is a square, it is used only as a parking, without spaces of aggregations, without shops and without pieces of greenery for children to play.
Solitude and isolation reign in this suburban chaos. I’ve never met people in two days when I took these photos. They were almost all at work, or closed in their homes. The agricultural lands are slowly disappearing, to give space to a mindless urbanization in a completely anonymous suburb.
Where some new houses are built, the land will be devastated by the construction of a new highway.
Even the new palatial residences appear to favor the isolation of people: look at these balconies — closed, recessed into the building. No one can see his neighbor, as opposed to old houses where the balconies were a place to meet and chat!
A Salute to the Masters is a series dedicated to great photographers that I like. I posted other tributes for Walker Evans, Lee Friedlander, Helen Levitt, Ernst Haas, Stephen Shore, Gabriele Basilico, Robert Adams, Thomas Struth, J.H. Lartigue, Elliott Erwitt, Robert Frank, Gianni Berengo Gardin, André Kertész, Willy Ronis, Brassaï, Rodchenko and Izis Bidermanas. I especially love street photography and urban architectural photography.