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Married to America by Justin Clifford Rhody

Justin Clifford Rhody crossed America with musicians on tour. Took pictures along the way. A picture of a chandelier. Pictures of posters. Pictures of performing musicians. And someone decided it should be a book titled Married to America. It’s a catalog of good amongst dirty, good amongst the stained or frayed or just simply worn out. Someone put a standard ole light bulb in that worn out chandelier because they needed light. Rhody took pictures because they needed document. This is how relationships work—meet needs, sometimes the shine is worn off, you know it was pretty when it was new, but you still need light. Photographic road trips aren’t new. Neither is the point and shoot documentarian or the “it was never intended to be anything other than for ourselves” photobook. But we still need pictures. For basic reasons—nothing academic or overtly intellectual. We want to remember what happened and the pictures happened while they were there.

Image sequences at times speak to more than just remembrance. A crudely made shrine to one Pat Boone (or Howard Pat, the grammar is poor and unclear) of browned paper on a slab of wood and a scuffed Polaroid, is followed by what seems to be an ancient Egyptian stone slab with hieroglyphic writings. Neither the Boone shrine with its poor grammar nor the Egyptian stone slab of hieroglyphics are comprehensible to anyone outside certain populations—those who know Pat and those who can read hieroglyphics. And neither of the two images place value on one sort of relic over another. This equality is consistent throughout the edit. Images of relics hanging on dirty walls are followed or preceded by images of things never intended to be artifacts—a Waffle House sign, the back cover of a magazine, a wire fruit basket. Each image occupies the same space on the pages of Married to America. The paper is basic, the inside cover and front page are blank, and in its entirety Married to America does not push any sort of agenda by concept or design. Perhaps though only because it is not bothered by such efforts. Photographs do not need narrative, concept, or outside faculties.

These point and shoot snapshots that make up Married to America by Justin Clifford Rhody are unconcerned with American beauty, picturesque plateaus, the fog of golden hour, or road trip tropes. This marriage is more like beige linoleum, a toilet painted black and chipping, or a tin bust of our first American father. More like honesty than infatuation. More like fancy-up what we’ve got—ketchup on scrambled eggs. These pictures of artifacts, these pictures of things never meant to be remembered, are artifacts themselves. It might not be much, but it’s what we’ve got and what we’ve got is ours and we’re together.