Text + Image: Aaron Schuman: Slant
Contemporary American society has been monitoring itself in ways that destabilize our sense of well being. Sites and apps like Nextdoor and the Citizen come into our homes to remind us that all is not well in the world, in fact, there is a knife wielding man just blocks away or a dog is in distress and these notifications just add to our heightened anxieties and worries. Aaron Schuman uses this tension as a charged subtext to small town life.
If you opened the local newspaper in the small New England town of Amherst, Massachusetts, as Schuman did one day, you might find a section entitled “Police Reports” – succinct and extraordinarily anticlimactic accounts of crimes, suspicious activities, events and non-events reported in the area during the previous week. In SLANT, published by MACK Books, Schuman interweaves a selection of these clippings published between 2014-2018, with quietly wry photographs he made in and around Amherst in response to their unintentionally deadpan descriptions. What began as a genuinely affectionate, tongue-in-cheek take on the small towns where Schuman spent his childhood steadily came to reflect the disquieting rise of “fake news”, “alternative facts”, “post-truth” politics and paranoia in America following the 2016 election.
Schuman’s subtly offbeat combination of images and words, however, was always inclined to create a foreboding sense of unease. In SLANT, the relationship that has been constructed between photography and text takes its inspiration from a poetic scheme called ‘slant rhyme’, notably espoused by the 19th-century poet Emily Dickinson, who also happened to live and write in Amherst. In such a rhyming scheme, “there is a close but not exact correspondence of sounds, often using assonance or consonance; generally it is used in poetry to give variations and an inharmonious feeling.” Appropriating this literary device, SLANT serves as a wider reflection upon something strange, surreal, dissonant and increasingly sinister stirring beneath the surface of the contemporary American landscape, experience, and psyche.
Follow Aaron on Instagram: @aaschuman
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