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Library Journal★ 07/01/2014
From 2004 to 2007, photographers Hyers and Mebane traveled across the United States to document the possessions, domestic interiors, and workplaces of a cross-section of Americans. Their project came to include 9,000 photographs, a selection of which were exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago in 2013. As the excellent reproductions of the accompanying exhibition catalog make clear, Hyers and Mebane are deeply invested in a photographic tradition of capturing the banality of suburban existence. The images often appear bereft of people and framed by car windows, suggesting that suburban space is not inhabited directly but rather driven through, thus underlining its alienating qualities. Distinguishing the coauthors' work from their forebears is the emphasis they place on the outmoded and decrepit. Instead of gleaming corporate logos and smart phones, we see decades-old computers, shabby houses, dated carpets, and rows of white bread, all of which imbue these images with a sense of the uncanny. This volume does not present the material culture of a contemporary imperial nation, as its title and introductory essay suggest, so much as the spectral artifacts of a past society. VERDICT The images of Hyers and Mebane are highly compelling, and the book is recommended to anyone interested in the history of street photography or American visual culture.—Jonathan Patkowski, CUNY Graduate Ctr.