Naomi Harris: EUSA
It’s hard for me not to love Naomi Harris’ photographs. A medium format film camera, a flash, a sense of humor, a sense of adventure, a global perspective, intelligence, and a really nice person all combines into a party that I want to attend. Her new series, EUSA, takes a look at the globalization of nationalities, where people in Europe are celebrating the American West, and people in the United States are celebrating various European traditions. Naomi visited over two dozen American-themed places in Europe and European-themed places in America providing a humorous look at our desire to feel part of a culture not our own. As Naomi states, “These exaggerated reconstructions bear little authenticity and rather are a perception of fantasy, a sense of what the other wishes the reality to be. And through this spirit of camaraderie, if only for that moment, the participants are granted membership to another’s culture.”
Naomi has created a Kickstarter campaign of this project and is looking for support to allow her to create a significant book of this work, to be published by Kehrer Verlag. EUSA will feature 134 Technicolor photographs, designed by award winning Dutch designer Teun van der Heijden and including conversations with Erik Kessels and Carolina Miranda.
Canadian born Naomi Harris is primarily a portrait photographer who seeks out interesting cultural trends to document through her subjects. Personal projects include Haddon Hall in which she documented the lives of the last remaining elderly residents at a hotel in South Beach. For this work she received the 2001 International Prize for Young Photojournalism from Agfa/ Das Bildforum, honorable mention for the Yann Geffroy Award, and was a W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography finalist.
For her next project America Swings, she documented the phenomenon of swinging over the course of 5 years (from 2003 to 2008) all over the United States. This project was realized in her first monograph “America Swings” released by TASCHEN in 2008 as a limited collectors edition and again in 2010 as a trade edition. Artist Richard Prince interviewed Ms. Harris for the book and it was edited by Dian Hanson.
She recently completed EUSA, which is a reaction to the homogenization of European and American cultures through globalization and Kehrer Verlag is publishing the book, being released in late 2017. It was shortlisted for the Luma Rencontres Dummy Book Award in 2016. Other accolades include being awarded a New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) Fellowship in Photography in 2013, a Long-Term Career Advancement Grant from the Canada Council in 2012 and participating in the World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass in 2004.
She just completed a road trip around the U.S. with her Shihtzu Maggie coinciding with Trump’s First 100 Days. One of the recipients of a Canada Council for the Arts’ ‘New Chapter’ Grant, she is currently planning on reenacting the fur trader’s route in Ontario by canoe during the summer of 2018.
Globalization has made the uniqueness of a particular country less significant thus creating an indistinguishable common world community. My project EUSA is a reaction to the homogenization of European and American cultures. Being enthralled by another country’s way of life does not mean that it is always an accurate portrayal rather it becomes a sentimental and idealized depiction; an homage to a heritage that isn’t ones own.
In America these “European” venues resemble a land of make-believe. Like something out of a fairy tale, they are magical, whimsical and quaint. In Europe their fascination lies in an America of the past, when the US was considered glorious and free, a place full of fresh starts and opportunities. The foundation of these locations was to honour the “other,” but what was once characteristic has now ultimately become a caricature.
Photographing these various maudlin locations within these 2 continents my goal was to illustrate the enthusiasm we have for one another’s culture, explore the relationship between the past and what is currently occurring in these countries, and demonstrate this universal phenomenon that is a reaction to the homogenization of our cultures.
I began this project in June 2008 photographing High Chaparral, a wild-west theme park in southern Sweden. Since then I’ve visited over twenty-five locations on both sides of the Atlantic including ‘Indian’ festivals in Germany, a Tulip Festival in Orange City, Iowa, an American Civil War reenactment in the Czech Republic, a Maifest in Leavenworth, Washington, numerous Oktoberfests around the United States, and a variety of ‘Cowboy and Indian’ amusement parks throughout Europe. I am in the midst of designing a book, which I hope to release in Fall 2017. It was shortlisted for Luma Rencontres Dummy Book Award in Arles, France.
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