For the first time, I find myself returning to a blog that I wrote several days ago and massively editing. There is an intriguing series of images by photographer Mark Laita entitled “Created Equal: Images of Real Americans.” These set in pairs contrasting images designed to show the great diversity that is America. So we have, for instance, a chef with glass of fine wine in hand and a cook with a spatula in hand, a fur trapper and a woman in fur with a dog, and three Hells Angels and juxtaposed three Choir Boys.
My first reaction to this series was, “Yes, kinda cool!” It is, as I say, quite intriguing and thought provoking. But then, I found myself thinking that it all only almost works. Almost works? Too many of the images, perhaps by necessity of the message, are stereotypes. For instance, there is an image of a southerner and a Hassidic Jew. Now I have known a lot of people from the American south in my day, and none of them look like this “southerner.” Indeed, I am pretty sure that they would be mighty insulted by Mr. Laita’s choice of appellation. If we are really holding that stereotype of the quintessential southerner in our minds then, really, shame on us.
Significantly, I find myself going back through the series time and again. To its credit it holds that kind of draw. Many of the pairings are just plain fun. But others trouble me. They trouble me because I understand why I see the two as contrasting, why I see them as fitting together. Most troubling are the three Chicago Policemen contrasted with the four Chicago Pimps. While the pimps are definitely sartorially challenged, I find myself asking who are the real thugs here? It doesn’t quite seem right and maybe that’s the whole point.