Diner bars; drive-thru restaurants; car factories; colour TV: mid-century America gave birth to both modern industrialisation and a ubiquitous aesthetic, creating a cultural imperialism that remains influential in 2015.
The work of Brighton based photographer Matt Henry focuses on this period. Currently studying a PhD in the department of American Studies at University of Sussex, Matt constructs scenes of ’60s–’70s Americana to produce imagery that is entirely new, yet guided by a nostalgic feeling of the familiar. Compounded by our own preconceived notions of the era, Henry’s work is led by narrative with a slice of insight. Titles such as The Trip, The King and Blue River Falls all add to the cinematic effect, giving his work a bizarre hyperreal quality. In his personal statement Matt explains:
“The devout modernism of this period is a particular interest, with utopian political and cultural ideals heralding some of the great liberal successes of our time (the Civil Rights, feminist, anti-war and Free Speech movements). My current long-term project focuses on the American counterculture and social protest in the years 1964-74, which is also the subject of my doctoral thesis.”
“Previous works focus on U.S cultural exports and how their symbols became the language of near-global imagination. In this sense, my work also plays with fragments of American photography, cinema and literature to explore underlying ideological concerns. Yet the distillation of these aspects into staged scenes is not only a method to explore subtext, but also to celebrate a world particular to me. This world takes the form of an imaginary small town, semi-rural space where the central dramas of nature, love, sex, family, and death contrast with the urbanised dislocation and technologically-inspired isolation of today’s postmodern world.”