All the Presidents’ Men
3 August 2015

All the Presidents’ Men combines photographs made in presidential museums and historic sites across the United States with images from my father and grandfather’s homes. In 1959, after a spontaneous all-night road trip, my 18-year-old father met former president Harry Truman out for a morning walk on the streets of Independence, Missouri. He doesn’t remember what they talked about, only the thrill of meeting a “powerful”, yet “unassuming” man. Nearly 50 years later, I visited Truman’s presidential museum and noticed there was little evidence of the restlessness and uncertainty that have shaped my father’s generation and characterized Truman’s legacy.

 

I am intrigued by photography’s increasing role within history museums, where historical narratives intersect with the complexities of photographs, replicas and ephemera, and are interpreted through the viewer’s imagination and personal experiences. In particular, I see presidential museums as archives of a particular version of American masculinity, informed by American dreams, fictional narratives and political rhetoric. Presidential power is reified and celebrated within the history museum while aspects of presidential identities that are more revealing of their complexity, individual struggles or humanity are rarely or only subtly articulated. These “preferred” heroic narratives have their own blind spots that are also absorbed into our political and personal lives despite the tenuous grasp they hold on the complexities of history and the multifaceted lives of men.

1_ResoluteReflection
2_BeforeandAfter
3_Gliders
4_OpenRoadStetson
5_Up
6_PicketFence
7_American
8_Unfufilled
9_Oxfords
10_TheSpeaker
11_Atomic
12_FencedCouple
13_2005in2011
14_MagicCamera
15_NewsreelNarrator
16_GreatMenandFamous
17_TheBrothersADA
18_DecisionRoom
19_Twinkle
20_ElderStatesman
21_MemoryBox
22_Fireside
23_DoubleJudiciary
24_HomeMovies
25_Inaccessible
26_Luminous
27_TheLine
28_AbeBoots
29_InDeath
30_ThreeSons
31_GoldofPeru