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My America

My America

by Diana Matar

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Pre-order. Expected April 2024 .

‘…what does it mean to live in a land where the people responsible for protecting its citizens can so often be involved in their deaths?’

 In the US, approximately 1000 people continue to die each year in encounters with police.  More than any other industrialised nation. My America is an archive of and memorial to victims of these encounters. The photographs, taken at locations where citizens were shot or tasered by law enforcement officers, create a quiet but chilling critique of the contemporary United States. The scale of the book­­­­­­­­­­ attests to the scale of the problem yet Matar asks us to remember these are individuals.

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'Of the over 300 sites I visited only seven had any type of memorial. Something about these lives not being recognised, even on the land itself, upset me most. As a nation, we weren't taking stock. We rarely, if ever, marked the ground.'

The black and white photographs in My America are of city parks, shopping malls, parking lots,  mobile homes, empty fields, and roadside highways. By photographing these banal landscapes Matar declares that what happened at the locations matters and questions the link between landscape and memory.

'Can a photograph tell us anything about what has happened before the photographer arrives… even if not, I believe there is value in documenting the ground where violence has taken place... Perhaps a photograph can offer ways to remember acts of injustice that have been forgotten or never made transparent.' 

Previously, Matar, an American living in London, spent years documenting sites of state sponsored violence in North Africa, Eastern and Southern Europe. In 2015 she turned her lens on her own country and began researching who, how, and where citizens were dying in police encounters in the US. She created detailed maps in her studio and compiled information about each victim who died in 2015 and 2016.

I wanted to address the issue of police
violence in a way that wasn’t just polemic.'
 

A small grant from the Ford Foundation enabled her to make six road trips over the next four years. She photographed in states with the highest numbers and/or highest rates per capita of lethal encounters—Texas, California, Oklahoma, and New Mexico—travelling alone on highways, back roads, and
city streets to reveal something beyond statistics. After Matar finished photographing, she spent two additional years researching the legal outcome of each case. The result is a book designed with respect to the victims but also rich with information about the structural reasons why these events continue to occur at such a high rate.

'In a world where millions of pictures are taken each day, I still believe photographs can contain meaning; they can become evidence of things not seen or heard... if, as I believe, to photograph is a desire to know something deeply and beyond the surface, I must be quiet to see. And attending to something says I acknowledge it matters.'

My America, an exhibition of photographs from the project will be on display from 7 March – 13 April 2024 at Purdy Hicks Gallery, London

Published April 2024
195 x 254 mm
304pp, 110 images
Hardback
ISBN 978-1-910401-43-9

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  • Diana Matar grew up in California and lives in London. She has a MA from the Royal College of Art and is the recipient of the Deutsche Bank Pyramid Award for Fine Art; the International Fund for Documentary Photography; and has twice been awarded an Arts Council England Individual Artist Grant. Installations of her photographic work are held in public collections and/or have exhibited at major institutions including: Tate Modern; Museum of Fine Art Houston; British Museum; Imperial War Museum; Museum Folkswang, Essen, Germany; George Eastman House; Museum of Contemporary Photography Chicago; Musée de la Photographie a Charleroi and many others. Her monograph Evidence was published in 2014 by Schilt Publishing and in 2019 Matar was appointed Distinguished Artist at Barnard College Columbia University, New York.

  • 'In a world where millions of pictures are taken each day, I still believe photographs can contain meaning; they can become evidence of things not seen or heard... if, as I believe, to photograph is a desire to know something deeply and beyond the surface, I must be quiet to see. And attending to something says I acknowledge it matters.'

    - Diana Matar