The Art of the Personal Project: Naomi Harris

The Art of the Personal Project is a crucial element to let potential buyers see how you think creatively on your own.  I am drawn to personal projects that have an interesting vision or that show something I have never seen before.  In this thread, I’ll include a link to each personal project with the artist statement so you can see more of the project. Please note: This thread is not affiliated with any company; I’m just featuring projects that I find.  Please DO NOT send me your work.  I do not take submissions.

Today’s featured artist:  Naomi Harris

EUSA – Artist Statement

On a trip to the mountains just north of Atlanta, Georgia, I came upon this odd little town called Helen. Once a thriving mining community, by the 1970s they were suffering from a recession. They called a town meeting and decided to turn their hamlet into a Bavarian wonderland bringing in tourist dollars. So today, in the Deep South, among all the gingerbread shops selling Confederate flag tee shirts, the world’s largest Oktoberfest is held, for three months.

This got me wondering, if this exists in Helen, what other American cities have been modeled after imaginary European villages. And for that matter, are there any places in Europe that were designed to look like America?

Globalization has made the uniqueness of a particular country less significant thus creating an indistinguishable common world community.We wear the same clothes, eat the same meals, use the same iPhones, we are all interconnected.  EUSA is a reaction to this homogenization of European and American cultures. Being enthralled by another country’s way of life does not mean that it is always an accurate portrayal rather it becomes a sentimental and idealized depiction; an homage to a heritage that isn’t ones own.

In America these “European” venues resemble a land of make-believe. Like something out of a fairy tale, they are magical, whimsical and quaint. In Europe their fascination lies in an America of the past, when the US was considered glorious and free, a place full of fresh starts and opportunities. The foundation of these locations was to honour the “other,” but what was once characteristic has now ultimately become a caricature.

I began this project in June 2008 photographing a weekend rendezvous for re-enactors at High Chaparral, a country western them park in the south of Sweden. There people spent the weekend living in rustic tents as “Indians” or “Confederate Soldiers” leaving all of their modern-day conveniences locked in their cars. Since then I visited over twenty-five locations on both sides of the Atlantic including Sioux City, a movie-studio-turned-tourist-attraction in Grand Canaria, Spain;‘Indian’ festivals in Germany: a Tulip Festival in Orange City, Iowa: an American Civil War reenactment in the Czech Republic; a Viking festival in Alaska; a rockabilly festival in the countryside outside Budapest, Hungary;a Maifest in Leavenworth, Washington; numerous Oktoberfests around the United States, and a variety of ‘Cowboy and Indian’ amusement parks throughout Europe.

At first sight it is often difficult to locate where and when these photos were taken; are we in the U.S, or somewhere in Europe? Upon closer examination, something inevitably reveals how out-of-place it is, and we are aware of our “error”.

In other images it is much more obvious that what we are looking at is built and artificial – a benign pastiche to the more insidious and offensive forms of cultural appropriation. These exaggerated reconstructions bear little authenticity and what was once characteristic has now ultimately become a caricature.

Photographing the visitors playing dress-up in these various maudlin locations within these two continents,my goal was to illustrate the enthusiasm we have for one another’s heritage, and demonstrate this universal phenomenon that is a reaction to the homogenization of our cultures.And through this spirit of camaraderie, if only for that moment, the participants are granted membership to one another’s culture.

To see more of this project, click here.

Naomi Harris and her project EUSA which has gone from a personal project to a published book and now an exhibition as part of the inaugural Photoville LA which runs April 26 – 28 and May 3 – 5. You can visit both the exhibition and the artist herself where she’ll be selling books (and if you’re lucky she may be wearing her dirndl) at Photoville which is being held at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Century Park, 2000 Avenue of the Stars, Los Angeles, CA 90067

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s.  After establishing the art buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999. She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information because she believes that marketing should be driven by brand and not by specialty.  Follow her at @SuzanneSeaseInstagram


Suzanne Sease

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