I remember hearing James Carville describe Pennsylvania as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between. Anyone who grew up near the state knows how strange it can be to drive through, starting out in the urban atmosphere of Philly and ending up in the midst of rural farm land just one hour later. In his series Jimmy Stewart Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Justin Visnesky captures Indiana, PA, which is the birthplace of Jimmy Stewart and apparently also has a museum devoted to the star as well as a statue. Visnesky, himself, also spent a number of his formative years in Indiana. The photos show the more Alabama side of PA and that’s okay, it’s a part of the culture and what makes others comfortable and familiar is always interesting to have a glimpse at. I particularly like the images of Jimmy Stewart that seem to be scattered about the town plastered on windows or sitting framed on tables–it’s like he’s watching over everyone there, reminding them not to forget.
Growing up in a small town is tough. Growing up in a small town so stuck in the past it can’t seem to move forward is even tougher…Every time I go back it feels like nothing has changed – and for the most part, not much has.
Yesterday I came across an interview with Bill Maher where he was asked to explain all the rage in America right now and he said that what most Americans are yearning for is for things to go back to the way they were in the 1950′s. Whether you agree with his political views or not, I don’t think he’s wrong here. There is an element of truth in wanting to go back to an era when it seemed as though there was little to worry about and times were “booming.” But as Maher pointed out, it wasn’t such a fun time if you were a woman or African American or Jewish, and so on. I believe as a country we are stuck at a cross-roads, with some people choosing to rebel because they hate seeing things changed, those “We want our country back” chants at tea party protests and conventions read more like “We’re afraid.” Fear breeds ignorance and hate, anytime this country is at a precipice of change we see many people who can’t let go and move forward.
I loathe to get political on here, mostly because I don’t feel aligned with any party and also because it’s impossible to have a civilized political discussion these days, but I am a modernist–I don’t believe in holding on to the past, I believe in moving forward to the new and simply learning from the past. I believe in growth. Now I’m sure Justin didn’t create this work for me to go off on this tangent, but it’s fascinating to see photos of places that are still locked into that old-school mentality in many ways. A kind of traditional lifestyle where roles have not changed much over the years, where a local boy became a movie star and is now their eternal icon.