The convenience of modern living has allowed us to enjoy unprecedented amounts of leisure time and methods through which to spend that time. American Idle explores our modern preference for the marketed moment, the pleasure purveyed.
It began with a set of brochures found in the lobby of a Gainesville, Florida motel. “Visit Jerusalem in Orlando!” was the unlikely announcement on the Holyland Experience’s handout. “Step back in time to the dawn of the Middle Ages” offered the Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament. “Be Petty” was the succinct tagline for NASCAR driver Richard Petty’s Driving Experience. The exchange of cash for the opportunity to enjoy free time well spent. That’s how it seemed to me.
I started the project with those venues, and by continuing to photograph festivals, celebrations, and events I seek to unravel various aspects of our modern malaise, one amusement at a time. Despite a surreal start at the Holyland Experience theme park where the passion of Christ is re-enacted daily, save for Christmas Day (when for obvious reasons it would be inappropriate), there is much sweetness in America. Throughout Iowa a generosity of spirit and love of family prevails, witnessed by the large extended Iowan families who park their RV’s and camp out at the state fair campgrounds for weeks at a time. In Chittenango, New York, devoted Wizard of Oz fans preserve the spirit of the 1939 movie. A fan club of aging baby boomers in Orlando bonded over Elvis Presley while raising money for needy children.
The images also reflect how these good times have diverted us. In the hustle of our lives, leisure time can be as stressful as work. But it does prevent us reflection, from finding a moment’s contemplation. The bright lights of the fair can be a darker siren’s call. We are lost, wandering through an interminable off-season. The festival is ongoing, but the party is over.