artists     stories    image-search     news    contact

An American Prayer

© Iain Mckell

Journeying into the American night

Focusing on the contemporary New York underground  Counter Culture where we see a modern day Woodstock festival, loft parties in Brooklyn, people in the subways and the street. Then an 84 hour coach journey from New york to Los Angeles where poor people travel long distances. By taking their portraits they told me their stories, revealing there deep beliefs in Christianity. It was as if God him self was there on the bus in the hearts and soles of the travellers, most of them journeying alone. There was the middle aged blind black women who lost her eyesight at 19 in a blundered eye operation, her mother lived in hope she would see again. The white aryan jail bird man who had served 15 years for armed robbery and had a tattoo swastika the whole breath of his back but had found God and tattooed over the swastika with the name of Jesus and the lorry driver who had given up his job to follow his dream and was going to LA to find his destiny as an actor again he had found God to give him the strength and believe he could achieve his goal.  A stripper girl stands crying at the coach station as she missed her bus that was to take her to Las Vegas, while at the same time a black man is being arrested and handcuffed.

The photographs are honest and tarred with melancholy. They reveal the sadness behind the eyes of those who are searching for the American Dream, whilst celebrating the beauty that lies within the ruthless ambition of its spirit. At the same time through out the journey i take landscapes out of the window of the bus as the American landscape passes me by like a never ending panorama, a visual metaphor of the big openness of this vast American continent with the never ending strait line of the road. Photographing at 4am a vanishing point, a single red dot of light on the horizon. Journeying into the American night. Embarking on a pilgrimage to LA the birthplace of Hollywood, revealing the darker empty underbelly that revolves underneath its blue skied surface. A city of suburban sprawl absent of people on the streets except the odd tourist, tramp or motel worker. The journey ends with images becoming graphic, lonely and isolating voids. It appears that God was left behind on the bus and where the name Jesus takes on a post modern meaning interpreted in graphics like the white cross in a shop window, bathed in Californian sunlight and dark shadows or the colorful signage on an art gallery wall, the word Jesus no longer having the same meaning as the road trip travellers beliefs but more infused into iconic graphic pop culture echoed by the t-shirt with graphics that say "Teenage Jesus" worn by the androgynous boy musician we saw at the beginning of the story playing in his band in the Brooklyn loft party. New york and Los Angeles become the two book ends to a modern day fable of American culture. A conundrum between the cities at both sides of this vast continent and a journey with God between them.

click to view the complete set of images in the archive

Institute Artist is redefining how stories are produced and told. Representing auteur-driven storytellers, we bring together talent across commercials, photography, fine art, and film. Founded by Matt Shonfeld and Frank Evers. Institute Artists multi-platform production expertise, and established global relationships in entertainment, fine art, and journalism make for unmatched reach and cross-pollination of creative work. Institute Artist has been a leading advocate of the power of underrepresented talent and is fully committed to bringing these authentic voices to our clients by helping them tell compelling and entertaining stories that better connect with their audiences.