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Abandonment of The American Dream

Members of the Dawlish & Teignmouth Camera Club turned out in their droves, despite the inclement weather, to hear the talk Fragments of the American Dream, by acclaimed photographer, Tony Worobiec FRPS.

Tony Worobiec with some of his prints on display
Tony Worobiec with some of his prints on display

Tony explained how a trip to Yellowstone National Park, where he felt he was competing with hundreds of other photographers, led to him and his wife, Eva, a fellow photographer, exploring the less well-known areas of Nebraska, North and South Dakota and south-eastern Montana. They were struck by the number of deserted and abandoned farm buildings, schools and churches in these areas and sought to find out why. And so the project to document the depopulating of America began.

Tony’s photos depicted the isolation of these farmsteads in a vast, featureless terrain. He explained that the original homesteaders, mostly from Europe, were given 360 acres of land and invariably built their homes in the middle of this. Later generations who went off to College or University did not want to return to that lifestyle. With no-one to take the farms on and no value in selling them, the old people would have to leave their homes still with furniture and personal belongings inside, together with their pick-up trucks and cars, creating time capsules of the era.

The decay and collapse of the mainly wooden structures from years of no maintenance were also plighted by the extremes of weather experienced in these parts, including the violent tornadoes that occur in spring.

The culmination of documentary images amassed by Tony and Eva during their frequent visits were published in the much-celebrated book Ghosts in the Wilderness; Abandoned America. As testament to the importance of this social history, copies can be found in most American libraries.

Tony and Eva have since revisited some of the areas and produced a follow-up book Fragments of The American Dream in 2015.

During the coffee break members spent time looking at Tony’s dramatic landscape images, as well as the more poignant home interiors.

Club member and long-term devotee of Tony’s work, Ken Holland, rounded off the evening with a vote of thanks for a most enjoyable and thought-provoking evening.

Dawlish and Teignmouth Camera Club meet on Wednesday evenings at Holcombe Village Hall and new members are always welcome. See our calendar to find out what's on.

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