A Photographer in Search of the American Psyche

Tuesday May 22, 2018 Written by Taz Liffman

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John Sanderson is a New York photographer who meditates on contemporary America. Travelling the country by road and on foot, he captures moments of industry and decay: the forces coursing through and propping up the American psyche; the qualities the nation prides itself on and the lies it won’t let go.

‘How do we define modern living in the United States? Is it through luxury? Indulgence? Leisure? Work?’ These were the questions John Sanderson found himself asking as he snapped a shirtless American chap standing outside a boarded-up furniture store. The battered sign on the store’s roof proclaimed 'Modern Living' and in the man’s hand was a shopping bag of Marlboro Reds. Was this modern life? And was this the modern iteration of the Marlboro Man, that rugged, chiselled, hard-working, hard-smoking avatar of American masculinity?

Regardless of where you sit on the political spectrum, Sanderson’s photos offer some insight into how and why America’s current political administration got to be where it is. His shots tap into that nostalgia, be it real or imagined, that continues to haunt swathes of America: disused mills and patchwork homes; lonely motels and patriotic car yards; antique train shows and curious characters. If America’s recent past was in part a fiction, you get the sense it was still one it believed in it.

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Photography: John Sanderson