My American Dream: Finding a Second Chance at Life in Photographs of Abandoned Places

My American Dream: Finding a Second Chance at Life in Photographs of Abandoned Places

by Angela Martin

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In her debut book, My American Dream, southern photographer, Angela Martin, shares a selection of her provocative photographs of abandoned places in the American mid-South. She also candidly relates her personal story about losing the American Dream in midlife, then finally, unexpectedly finding a second chance at life in the ruins of these abandoned places. Angela teaches us how connecting with the right creative work, on the right subject, at the right time, can touch your deepest self and shape who you are anew. Experiencing fine art, whether as a creator or an enthusiast, can transform body and soul, heal old wounds, and open one to fresh horizons filled with endless possibility. Her journey is a testament to the transformative power of creativity, and one filled with valuable lessons for anyone searching for a more meaningful life. My American Dream is both a commentary on the changing face of the American Dream over the last half-century and a call to a New Dream; one based not on the accumulation of wealth and things, but on learning to live a meaningful life as one’s most authentic self.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780692121016
Publisher: Light Brew Photography
Publication date: 05/24/2018
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 150
Sales rank: 1,032,899
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Angela Martin, PhD, is an award-winning photographer, writer and anthropologist. She is a southern artist with a uniquely emotional, organic and painterly style. When not roaming the backgrounds creating images of landscapes, nature and places, she writes about the experience of fine art photographs at the Light Brew Blog. Find her on the web at: Facebook at:

Table of Contents


This book describes my personal journey with the subjects of my photographs and the unexpected impact that creating them has had on my life. My American Dream is atypical because it is both an art book and a memoir. It is autobiographical, although not a detailed account of my quite ordinary life. Instead, it tells the inspiring story of how tackling a photographic project about abandoned places gave me a second chance at a life worth living when I was at my lowest ebb.

Chapter 1: The Abandoned Places of the American Dream

As I photographed abandoned places, I realized that the former homes, businesses, outbuildings, and places of worship had once been part of someone’s dreams of security and prosperity. They were all once in some way the embodiment of the American Dream for their owners. The photographs included in this book together comprise a commentary on the state of the American Dream; what it once was and what it has become over the course of my lifetime.

Chapter 2: Building My First American Dream

Chapter 3: The Changing Face of the American Dream

Chapter 4: Living the American Dream of Generation X

Chapter 5: Living My American Dream

Chapter 6: Things Fall Apart

Chapter 7: The Myth of the American Dream

We are what we consume: what we eat, wear, drive, inhabit. The American Dream is not about inherent self-worth. It’s about achieving worth through the appearance of wealth, which can simply mean through accumulation of the right things bought on credit; those things that signify success.

Chapter 8: Starting Over from the Middle of Life

Somehow, I had to find another route to a meaningful life filled with happiness, dreams and new possibilities. I needed to invent and embrace a new identity; one defined by something other than career or material success. I needed to reconnect with my authentic self, to begin again from the best possible place inside of me. 

Chapter 9: The Relationship between Identity and Place

Chapter 10: The Transformative Power of Creativity

When I began working creatively with abandoned places I also began confronting my most difficult feelings and painful experiences, without even realizing it. My camera became a creative tool for communing with, rather than objectifying or reifying my subjects. I saw myself in the ruined places of the past. I identified with their loss and decrepitude. Deep down inside I understood that these places are also hollow at their core, because they are no longer inhabited by a purpose. And without purpose, they no longer have worth in our materialistic society; they are the failed places of failed dreams.

Chapter 11: Inhabiting the Lost Places of the American Dream

When we inhabit a place, we begin to locate its beauty and its value. We see firsthand how the creative impulse persists amid decay. We witness the juxtaposition of the renewal of life with the crumbling handiwork of humanity. We might then meditate upon the true connection between ourselves and the places we inhabit over a lifetime.

Chapter 12: My (New) American Dream

The End is the Beginning

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