Monday, December 22, 2008


Copyright for text and photos: Jan Krcmar 2008
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I know, the title sucks. "Drive by shooting" as a name for photographs shot out of a moving train or car is about as funny, witty, amusing and imaginative as a knock-knock joke. But I could not come up with anything new.

I did a similar series in 2006, when driving from NYC to Buffalo, which is exactly where these pictures were taken. Only two years later. Different lens and a much darker atmosphere this time. But still something very American, seen through European eyes. The US are a country, in which people move and drive a lot. A lot. And longer distances than in Europe. So they see landscapes through different eyes.

If you travel for seven, eight, twelve, fifteen hours, you realise, that the landscape has started moving, not you. Mountains are no longer huge objects sitting still at the end of the horizon. They move, if very slowly. But compary to them, railroad crossings and buildings or trees swoosh by your window and you have to be fast to get them. The reflection of the lights inside the train in the picture is an integral part of the photograph and the entire idea. I want to show the scene exactly as I saw it, and if I saw the image through a dirty window with the reflection of a lamp in the glass, that's what you should see as well.


Copyright for text and photos: Jan Krcmar 2008
As always, for better viewing open the post in a separate window. To do so, click here.

Don't get me wrong. This is not a simplified, ignorant European view on the restrictions to freedom in US society. It is not another prejudice shout of "why do you call yourself the land of the free when you are not allowed to do anything?".
This is merely a little photographic journey into language and how it enters our every day life without us knowing.

On the last day of our last trip to NY, I was walking around the East Village and I suddenly noticed the amount of notices and signs reading "no parking" "no eating" "post no bills", etc. and realised, how often the word NO features in American cities.

It is almost an integral part of everyday life, which people probably do not notice and probably ignore anyway. Post no bills does not mean that a construction company would really obstruct to posters on their wooden fences, it is just that they have to put it up to be safe from lawsuits.

When I was in Glacier Park Montana two years ago, I asked a ranger how effective all the guidelines were, that are meant to keep tourists from being eaten by bears. One had to learn a whole set of rules in order to feel safe, but when asked, the ranger admitted, that all the sings on the camping sites, all the videos played to tourists entering the park and all the other tipps and tricks on how to protect yourself from a bear were pretty much useless. "This is bear country, if a bear wants to kill and eat you, it will. It's a bear."

The "no" signs got me thinking about other cultures, in which the "no" is as present as in the US, only not visually. In the Czech republic (when it comes to services) it is present in the language of vendors or vendors. "You cannot have this food with this menu, you cannot have that coffee with this type of drink, you can't, you can't." In other cultures, the "no" is included in a set of rules of behaviour. "You don't do that in public, you don't speak about this during dinner, etc.".

Just a thought illustrated through photographs.

And, as the last item for today, a little bonus from what will probably be my next series: