The End

 

One year ago, I embarked on a mission. In order to document and call attention to the prevalence of patriotic imagery on the American landscape; I decided to photograph one new use of the flag, everyday, for one year. Now, 366 (I bet you forgot it was a leap year) flags later I am finished. The point has been made; in 2008 flag imagery is everywhere. It is common to see a person in a flag t-shirt or see the flag image decorating a mailbox or used on the packaging for cigarettes or any product you can think of.

All the uses I have photographed are blatantly against the U.S. Flag code (click here to check it out, great site)  yet it is considered acceptable and even patriotic to stick a plastic flag in your yard or don a flag shirt. However, some uses of the flag will get you arrested like hanging it upside down to protest the war in Iraq. And burning the flag is out of the question. Why does burning the flag incite people to violence while using it on a disposible garbage bag does not? Both are against the flag code.

To me the over usage feels like propaganda. It seeps in through your skin when you are not paying attention, subliminally creating a sense of nationalism.

Thanks for coming along on my journey! It has been an interesting year!

 

FLAG A DAY is going to be included in a show, sponsored by CREATIVE TIME that promises to be really exciting. DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA: THE NATIONAL CAMPAIGN will be at the Park Avenue Armory (643 Park avenue between 66th and 67th streets) in NYC from Sept. 21 – 27.

Advertisements

Living Photographs – 2

Recently a woman named Patty Watson sent me a group of photographs that I would like to share with you. Here is what she has to say,

Since 911 each Flag Day I have been organizing aerial photos consisting of 750 students, staff and volunteers at Cloverbank elementary school. We have a big Flag Day ceremony each year so I thought it would be fun to make a symbol to teach the kids about being patriotic. These enlarged photos line the foyer of the school. Each child receives one on Field Days and decorates the frame in red, white, and blue stars. Last year I also had the kids sing “God Bless America” while in the formation. I have completed 8 patriotic symbols and given 4 Flag Day speeches.

 

 

Raising the Flag

As Flag Day 2008 approaches, and I reach the end of the Flag a Day project, I realize that this commentary would not be complete with out mentioning the most iconic American flag image of all time, Joe Rosenthal’s Pulitzer Prize winning, Raising the Flag over Iowa Jima. This image, taken in 1945 on the Pacific Island of Iowa Jima, after a long, heated battle by the Marines, was distributed by AP and ran in newspapers all over the world. It symbolized perseverance, strength, victory and patriotism for American people in the midst of a brutal war.

The photograph became so popular that it appeared on 3.5 million posters for the 7th war bond drive. The Marines appearing in the photo were brought home and taken on a whirlwind publicity tour. The photo was made into a stamp in 1945 another stamp 1995 and a commemorative silver dollar in 2005.

  

The Marine Corps War Memorial, a memorial statue located near Arlington National Cemetery, is based on the photograph and a life size version made from Lego blocks is on display in the National Museum of the Marine Corps Heritage Center gift shop.

This photograph is an icon embedded in the American public memory bank symbolizing perseverance, strength, patriotism, unity and hope.

Oddly enough, a similar photograph was taken by Thomas E. Franklin of the Bergen Record in the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks. Officially known as “Ground Zero Spirit”, the photograph shows three firefighters raising a U.S. flag in the ruins of the World Trade Center. This photograph was also distributed by AP and ran in newspapers and magazines throughout the world. In 2002, it too was made into a stamp.

 

And finally here are a couple of my photos. You know that an image has moved beyond iconic when it reaches the status of lawn art. 

 

 

 

 

Coupon

I got this coupon in mail and have to say what sense does this make? I cannot think of a single reason to plaster an American flag, not just once but four times, on a coupon for carpet and air duct cleaning. The name of the company is Clear Choice so no connection there. Does Clear Choice really think using the flag on a coupon will make people will choose them to clean their air ducts because they are patriotic or real Americans? Does it actually work, subliminally, to steer a customer to their service? Or did they just find the image on a free graphics CD and throw it on to visually jazz up the coupon?

 

The Orange Bible

The other day my daughter Rose came from school, talking on and on, upset about a little orange bible someone had given her at school. Whoa, wait a minute, slow down, what do you mean someone gave you a bible at school? Well it wasn’t actually inside the school building but on the activity bus after school that someone was handing them out to students as they boarded the bus.

Anyway it wasn’t being given the bible that upset her in fact, when she first received it she was quite excited, she told me, because she had just been thinking she wanted to read it. What upset her was upon opening the bible she found an American flag starring at her. She became so disgusted seeing the flag in the bible that she didn’t want the bible anymore. If fact if I remember correctly her words where;

“Don’t you think that is weird mom? It is like pure propaganda or something putting an American flag in the bible.”

 

The American President

John McCain’s first post primary ad that ends with the line the American president that Americans have been waiting for brings up some interesting issues. First of all, have we ever had an un-American president? Aren’t all of the candidates American? Does wearing a flag pin, made in China, or displaying a plastic flag on a stick, again made in China, make someone more American or more patriotic than someone else?

Harold Meyerson’s column, McCain’s America is Exclusionary, in the Washington Post makes some great points about this. Here are a few excerpts:

Now, I mean to take nothing away from McCain’s Americanness by noting that it’s Obama’s story that represents a triumph of specifically American identity over racial and religious identity. It was the lure of America, the shining city on a hill, that brought his black Kenyan father here, where he met Obama’s white Kansan mother. It is because America is uniquely the land of immigrants and has moved beyond a racial caste system that Obama exists, has thrived and stands a good chance of being our next president.

That’s not the America, though, that the Republicans refer to in proclaiming their own Americanness. For them, “American” is a term to be used as a wedge issue, a way to distinguish their more racially and religiously homogeneous party from the historically more polyglot Democrats. Such separation has a long pedigree: Campaigning for GOP presidential nominee Alf Landon in 1936, Republican leader Frank Knox said that the Democratic Party under President Franklin Roosevelt “has been seized by alien and un-American elements. Next November, you will choose the American way.”

This year, we can expect to see almost nothing but these kinds of assaults as the campaign progresses. The Republican attack against Obama all but ignores the issue differences between the candidates to go after what is presumably his inadequately American identity. He is, writes one leading conservative columnist, “out of touch with everyday America.” His reluctance to wear a flag pin, writes another, shows that he “has declared himself superior to an almost universal form of popular patriotism.”

 

 

Shop Vac Terrorist

Spring has been beautiful here in Norfolk. The air has been cool and crisp and flowering trees and bushes abound. We thought we would take advantage of the fresh air and started opening the windows on the rental house we are living in but they are old and the caulk holding in the glass panes is chipping out like crazy. Mark decided to rent a shop vac to clean it all out and went to the local B&H tool rental to get one.

He came back a couple of hours later having bought a new shop vac. The sales person at B&H Rental told him they could not rent to him without a valid Virginia driver’s license. Being a resident of New Jersey with a valid New Jersey driver’s license was not good enough. The clerk went on to explain that since 9/11 and all the threats of terrorism they would not rent equipment without a Virginia license.