Home Front by Peter Elliott
I first heard about Home Front reading an interview of Peter Elliott in LensWork magazine, which also featured photos from the book. In the interview they discussed the process that went into producing the book and the fact that it was all digital from shooting to production. Brooks Jensen, the editor-in-chief of LensWork, has a high regard for quality and for him to be so impressed with this all digitally produced book, I had to see it.
The book is beautiful. Peter Elliott and his publishing team did a magnificent job focusing on quality not just the printing but also the paper-weight to packaging materials. Home Front is a large impressive book, 11″ x 17″ which is two 8.5″ by 11″ pieces of paper vertically side-by-side. This allows most prints in the book to be around 10″ x 15″, which is a good size print. The book contains very little text, a brief introduction by Julia Reed and a few quotes among the 87 images. It’s primary focus, as it should be, are the photos.
After Sept 11th, 2001 as his own form of therapy Peter Elliott set out on the road photographing the American flag across the United States. He traveled the country several times from his home in New York out to the West Coast, down to the south of Florida. Elliott captured the diversity of America from rural mid-west to the urban architecture of New York united together by the flag.
I want to photograph the common man’s America – the middle class, the blue-collar folks, the people that nobody thinks about when they think about art.
Home Front is far more than a patriotic flag-waving “Go America” book. Elliott images show the red, white and blue flag in a slightly warm black and white. This neutrality gives equal weight to the flag and where it is flying, not just photos of a symbol. The photos together seem to be more about the diversity of America, from where we live and work. It shows different homes, city streets, stores. Different landscapes of farms, beaches, mountains and harbors.
Elliot has a strong photographic eye when it comes to capturing the light at the right instance. In several images the flag seems to be glowing from how the light is striking it. Many of his photographs are a little too cluttered for my minimalist tastes but there are plenty of great images in the book. A few of my favorites include:
Bass Harbor, Maine — an elegant composition of boats serenely floating in a harbor, with perfect little houses glowing in the background. A small lone flag flies off one of the boats. The only motion disturbing the stillness is a blurred seagull flying through the scene.
Coconut Grove, Florida — a lone silhouette stands ankle deep in the shallow ocean holding a waving flag. A distant city and bridge is at the horizon small in the background with a vast stretch of ocean. The man looks as if he plans on walking across the ocean to the city bearing his flag.
New York, New York — a tattered flag just blurred by waving in the wind with sharp New York skyscrapers in the background. This image is probably the signature photo from the book, especially knowing that it was produced after Sept 11th. Even though a little cliche, it is a strong and well composed photograph.
I recommend putting on some good old American Blues, with some twangy guitar and deep soulful singing. If you have something from Mississippi John Hurt, Blind Lemon Jefferson or maybe some Leadbelly.