In Search of Small-Town America
The '50-50 Project' began in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in April of 2006. A three hundred-and-fifty day extended road-trip, covering over 30,000 road-miles – and a good few thousand in the air – visiting all fifty American States – in as many weeks.
For each of the States, a 'target-town' was selected: The chosen small town should be as close as possible to the physical centre of each State, and it should have a population of between one thousand and ten thousand, based on the year 2000 census. The route finally passed through over 1,500 small towns and villages.
Here, published online for the first time – in seventeen volumes, available as pdf downloads – the work is a collection of around 2,400 photographs, and over 340,000 words, exploring the many differing processes, affecting the deterioration of Small-Town America. It is in no way intended as an authoritative work, or a comprehensive travelogue, and although focussed primarily on small-town culture, it is very much a random, and personal view. It includes a variety of incidental observations, societal, media and political comment, and carefully considered insight. Often related with caustically casual humour, and with a sprinkling of expletives thrown-in, it's an occasionally flippant, but always informed view, of an iconic part of the wide American landscape.
The term 'Blog', is most widely attributed to Justin Hall – who, in 1994 began 'posting' various texts – and the phrase was coined by Peter Merholz in 1999, who broke 'weblog' into the word we know today. In 2006, I was unaware of all of this, as an upcoming phenomenon, and so I simply 'snapped-away', wrote it all down, and just 'kept it'. But essentially, that's what this is – a year long, daily blog – in pictures and words.
It was always the intention to turn the work into a very large book – but in physical form, at over 2,000 pages – it's just a tad too big, to fit onto any regular sized 'coffee table'. And so this is the current, digital equivalent.
Although viewed and described, inevitably, and necessarily, from a very 'subjective' experience, its prime intention, is to inform a predominantly 'objective' view. A meticulously crafted narrative, accompanied by several hundred precisely framed photographs, the work alludes primarily to, the lamentable demise of so many small American towns.
As an all too typical, and singular example:
"Wal*Mart not only offers an incredibly wide range of products, and of course: "Low prices – Always", but also, hard to come by employment opportunities. Faced with the existent probability of decimating 'downtown', what are the financially challenged folks to do? Stick-up for the preservation of the somewhat pricey, local hardware store, or go find super-cheap light-bulbs – and maybe a job even – at the brand-spanking-new 'hyper-market'."
What Readers are Saying…
The work is a unique and innovative mix of superb photographs, and an eloquent but quirky, daily diary – as the author voyages on a daunting solo trip through every State in America – in one year!
Susan ToftRead more
This is unlike anything I've ever read before, with an intriguing combination of pictures and prose, interwoven in such a perceptive, and imaginative way. This is 'Click-Lit' – and I'm coining the phrase.
Michael HearnRead more
I was captivated by this work, and the ambitious intention, but the methodical way in which the author has carried it out in such wonderful detail of words and images, is nothing short of astonishing.
His aim is to discover and document the small town ethos that was once all pervasive in this wonderful Country, but is now sadly, in slow but steady decline. It needed to be documented. And this is it! Add to this mix some fascinating facts, and often biting observations, and you have a gripping account of one man's quest to record the hidden and fading treasures that constitute 'Small-Town America'. The sole drawback is – America has only fifty States. I wanted more.
Wayne Jackman – Award-winning scriptwriter and author
This is 'Click-Lit' – and I'm coining the phrase.
I entered a truly special world when I opened this book. It felt that I travelled every mile, along with the author. The triumphant highs, the stoic lows – joy, tears and laughter. Absolutely beautiful photography, amusing but insightful words, and with a generous helping of social history thrown in. I have been educated and very thoroughly entertained.
Susan Toft – Retired Publican and consummate reader
The reader will be struck by how well the diary entries are linked with the photographs, with either leading the eye to the other. As with every honest diarist, from Pepys onward – his disappointments, his successes, the expletives, the arguments – and so we read on, to find out 'what happened next'. And not only are we treated to a rich and intelligent narrative, and a collection of thought-provoking pictures, we are also learning something about the Country, as the journey progresses.
Michael Hearn – Retired Librarian and book collector