MeetingsPaul Shambroom(Chris Boot Publishing, 2004)
For many, contemporary politics is a remote and abstract authority, with little local impression or effect. For the politically disengaged, politics is largely concerned with corporate and banking corruption, Orwellian surveillance, and the terminal failure of international political and monetary orders. In this culture of global anxiety, it is easy to dismiss the systems of local government and the civic-minded individuals that are the components of its workings.
From 1999-2003, photographer Paul Shambroom documented the governance of small town America, attending over one hundred and fifty local town meetings– conferences of the most elementary forms of authority. These mundane rituals are theatrically preserved by Shambroom’s panoramic lens and his low camera angle, bestowing an almost intense grandeur to the most anonymous of gatherings.
These meetings are as far removed from the machinery of national government as one could imagine and the accompanying minutes are heavy with the banal detail of local concerns: ‘Motion to pay Bob for mowing city hall; Bob made mention to buy coffee, coffee filters Styrofoam cups and a case of pop for city hall’. It would be easy to ridicule these assemblies, but Shambroom notes, ‘In a time in which there is talk of exporting democracy, it seems especially pertinent to look at the often imperfect and sometimes beautiful way in which we practice this form of government at home in America.’
Meetings is an intricate study of authority and the power of the individual. The rituals of citizenship and community, principles often neglected in an age of individuality and irony, are celebrated in this work with a humanistic charm and apt relevance. Paul Shambroom has created an ode to democratic politics, in all its eccentric and defective forms and speaks of political systems much grander than those it documents.