Vanishing America — The Picture Show

Michael Eastman, Vanishing America.

Nostalgia is at the heart of Michael Eastman’s Vanishing America. In the footsteps of pioneering color photographers such as William Christenberry and William Eggleston, Eastman has trekked across America to capture melancholy vestiges of pastimes and times past. From dilapidated diners, to abandoned theaters, to rusty hinges and peeling paint, historian Douglas Brinkley writes that the “sheer thrust of American Dynamism has simply left Main Street unloved.”

This nostalgia is inherent in Americana, evident in our love of baseball, barbershops and barbecues — things that evoke not only childhood memories, but also ideas of some vague collective past. Traces of civilization comprise this photographic collection; Eastman shows us freshly mopped floors, “no loitering” signs and illuminated lights, which you can almost hear humming. But in almost 200 pages, not one human is seen.

As Brinkley describes, “Life in these photographs has receded into the blue-light haze realm of a late-night TV show flickering under the cracks of a flophouse bedroom door.” They are nondescript but familiar places. It’s hard to say whether Eastman is really capturing a disappearing America, or whether he’s preserving an American sentiment. Either way, his images are stunning.

Words and Images found at NPR.