When you get down to it, the United States of America is a very odd country. So large, with so many different cultures within its boundaries. That, is probably what makes it a very interesting place. Personally, it scares me to death. Unless it's nature shots of parks, the seaside, and cute animals, the rest of the country is a fearful and haunted place. "Roadbook" by Hunter Barnes captures what is scary to me, in other words, the human being.
All of the black and white photographs are from the 21st century, but it could be any era in the States. They say things change, but in certain parts of our world, nothing changed. A series of images from Sammyville, Oregon is portraits of men with their guns. Most are wearing their weapons as if it was the wild west - which the case may be in Sammyville. One thing is clear. There will never be a ban on guns in this country. There is no way in heaven or hell, that these guys and gals will give up their firearm. It's not going to happen. Not in my lifetime nor if I have a kid, not in their lifetime either.
Photographs by Hunter Barnes
Throughout the book, except on a section on really beautiful women in New York City (why in his right mind, would he leave the city?), we see life on the margins. Motorcycle gangs in NYC, prisoners in CA State Prison, low riders in New Mexico, Black gang in East St. Louis, white Baptists, and rednecks. Barnes captures the world quite well, because I suspect that these people accepted, or at the very least, trusted him. As far as I know this wasn't a fast hello and goodbye project from Barnes, he actually spent time with these people. The portraits show a relationship between the subject matter and the photographer. I have always believed that a good picture is not just the image itself, but that the photographer knows the culture, and its people, and then the photograph can happen. At least the good ones. And this book is full of great portraits.
As usual, the book is beautifully designed by the good people at Reel Art Press. The design never gets in the way of the images by Barnes. It serves the image.