Gimme Shelter

So it happened. Once again with unfailing accuracy and relish twenty-sixteen kicks me in the balls. I don't want to comment directly on the new presidency. You can click back to the previous blog entry to get an idea of how I feel about that. When the war came Italian writer Giovannino Guareschi walked the streets howling all night until he was arrested by Mussolini's police, I considered it but then realised I'd just be mistaken for a Welsh rugby fan.

All photographs taken with the X-Pro 2 and 18mm f/2, 35mm f/1.4r and 56mm f/1.2 lenses.

I don't think anyone understands America, not even the Americans. Of late it's safe to say at least that it feels as if America seems from afar to be in a state of constant panic, every threat hyped by the media into being an immediate potential world-ending one. Social media becomes something even more toxic, with click-bait replacing true journalism and the attitude of both camps becoming one of, 'you're either with us or against us.' Here in Britain we had a milder strain of this virus when Brexit came about, but now looking out across the ocean we genuinely wonder what the hell is going on.

Clickbait especially worries me. It would be so easy for me to hawk around this image with the caption, "You wouldn't believe where Trump has started building his wall!" 

Never mind that the wall is in Lexington, Kentucky and merely exists as a sound barrier to shelter the houses from the heavy-goods trains on the other side. No, the beauty of click-bait is that all they care about is getting your clicks. No need for a shred of truth at all. I remember at the time of Hurricane Sandy click-bait images from disaster movies and Katrina being posted pretending to be from the storm. As a farcical example, recently on YouTube a video was posted hours after the Karikoura earthquake claiming to be of the moment the earthquake hit, when actually it was footage of the Christchurch earthquake from 2011. Never mind that the Karikoura quake happened in the ink black of midnight in a remote part of undeveloped New Zealand and that the 2011 quake hit down-town Christchurch around lunchtime, the video still hit pay-dirt in clicks and likes. Some of the click-bait articles I've seen around Brexit and the election have barely been less brazen.

The worrying thing is that the initial impression these 'articles' give sticks. The sheer volume of them, despite being utter bullshit, sways opinion and opens people up to believing more artful lies. This is the 'post-truth' age, where people credulously subscribe to and get their news from YouTube channels going by the name of things like 'The Truth'. And it's scary.

So I'm not sure if I know America anymore. Not even sure if I ever did. The many kindnesses of the people I've met in my travels there, the beauty of the country, the energy and creativity of its culture... that I can bank on. But there's a strangely painful and tangible paranoia amongst both the left and right in America right now, that really seems to have the nation at each other's throats. It seems partly fuelled by the feeling amongst both sides that America has fallen from grace in some way, and they're each blaming the other for the fall. The trouble is that America has always been built on John Ford's principle of 'print the legend' and the nation has come to believe in these myths and legends - two and a half centuries of history shot at golden hour with the flag Old Glory shown slowly waving above the farms and cornfields in the breeze. It's the same appeal to a golden age that the Brexit campaign made to my country. But it's just snake-oil, advertised to cure all ailments and mysteriously restore a nation to glory, at no inconvenience or unreasonable cost to the consumer. A ruse in no way different from 'Plastic Surgeon's Hate This Trick!' click-bait.

But anyway, the photographs. You come here for photographs, not to witness me slowly curl up in the foetal position. Here's a string of them from my recent trip to Kentucky, on-the-nose photographs that somewhat reflect my head-space regarding America at the moment. I'm sure that will begin to change a little in a few weeks time once the shock wears out of my system, and that I can get a little less Robert Frank bleak, but I might have to take a break and put up some local stuff before I can accurately see what I captured in the bluegrass state. I promise my blog will not become dominated by depressed political ramblings, this post is in part a necessity to get it out of my system. But once again I just have to say, "Seriously, the ****, 2016?"  

So there you have it. I guess it's a good time to take solace in photography, great American beer and the ink-black comedy of Hunter S. Thompson and  Philip K. Dick. I can't face this blub-fest being the heading article on my blog list for long, so expect some Cardiff stuff pronto, maybe a crowd-pleasing X-Pro2 review too. Come the new year I'll no doubt be able to unflinchingly look through my Kentucky photographs and see the beauty that I saw in that pastoral, rolling state. Until then, it's trying to enjoy the little things I guess. 

Take care, thanks for reading and hugs to you all. Laters.