She Dances on JacksonVanessa Winship

(Mack, 2013)

The tradition of the epic American road trip exists as a cornerstone to the foundations of photo history. Generations of artists, both native and alien, have grappled with the shape, vastness, and complexity of America and its inhabitants. Like a distant relative, it is both strangely familiar and yet stubbornly unknown; this land and its people seduce the curious into an impossible undertaking: traveling its breadth and comprehending its essence.

In 2011, Vanessa Winship became the first female recipient of the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation award. This prestigious grant funded the realization of She Dances on Jackson– the British photographer’s exploration of the America of cultural myth and imagination. In this work, Winship overtly acknowledges the literary and photographic legacies of those who have traversed the continent before her. However, this is a personal journey, an encounter with her America; a quiet, meandering meeting of places visited and characters discovered.

The inevitable reference to the American Dream is unmistakably woven into the fabric of this work. She Dances on Jackson would appear to be the post-industrial footnote to this illusion, a place burdened by decay and isolation. Winship’s passage through America is littered by symbols of hopeless wilderness, but it’s in the tender conversation between the melancholic landscape and the defiant portrait of youth, that the balance is struck.

She Dances on Jackson cares not to make any deliberate or illustrious cultural statements, but exhibits an altogether more intimate and sincere tone; a portrait of the fleeting nuances of small town America, of ordinary lives, of chance discoveries. The result is a fantastic jewel of a photobook: a smart, precious and evocative work, deserving acknowledgement as a truly significant portrait of contemporary America.

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