Driving the Photographic American Dream

Today we’re revisiting Ian Ruther. He and his collaborator, Lane Power, have brought us a profoundly inspiring documentary that is the culmination of a trans-America trip undertaken in the truck/gigantic camera introduced in this article, which was written about Ruther back in April. The product, “American Dream”, explores not only his subjects, or his equipment, but the deep personal struggle that human beings face in the search for themselves, for their purpose and meaning (warning: strong language). Take a look here:

If this is your first time meeting Ian Ruther, you might notice that he’s transformed a large delivery van into a massive, mobile camera obscura. Mounting a lens on its rear, he exposes the photo from inside the camera’s chamber, where he can see the outside scene projected upside-down on the inside wall. He positions his film by hand, which in this case is a giant sheet of metal coated in a light-sensitive silver emulsion; this is called wet-plate photography. Due to the dark color of the metal, the negative image ends up looking like a positive, creating only a single image with every exposure – completely unique, and unprintable. This process is similar to a scaled-up version of the tintype, which we told you about a few days ago.

antique photography

“I definitely think we have a tendency to hide behind things that we know can hold us back. There’s always going to be something that isn’t going to work, and if we just focus all our energy on that, it gives us an escape route.”

The incredible expense, both financial and spiritual, that such a laborious project requires is truly awesome, in the sense that it fills us with awe whenever we see a great artist, or any person so fully and completely immersed in their craft. This kind of innovation is at the very heart of photography—a young medium, still in the throes of rebellious adolescence, but with the unique talent of true realism. More than any other art, it can show us the objective truth, not only the artist’s interpretation. Though their lens, bold and unflinching, and in their willingness to approach failure straight on, Ruther and Power manage to connect with the frightened heart of all humankind.

Like This Article?

Don't Miss The Next One!

Join over 100,000 photographers of all experience levels who receive our free photography tips and articles to stay current:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

New! Want more photography tips? We now offer a free newsletter for photographers:

No, my photos are the best, close this forever