As a part of Chobi Mela X, Vanessa Winship's solo photography exhibition, She Dances on Jackson, is currently taking place at Allaince Francáise de Dhaka (AFD). The series features landscapes of rural and urban American cities and suburbs and portraits of their inhabitants, all of which are shot on film and printed in black and white.
In 2011, Winship received the Henri Cartier Bresson Award which allows an artist the funds to pursue a new photographic project. This award gave Winship the opportunity of travelling all across the USA in exploration of the “fabled American Dream”, which led to the creation of this series.
The images are striking in their plainness as well as the skills of the photographer. The subjects of the portraits meet the viewer's glance with a blank look in their eyes, thoughtless and emotionless yet visibly, deeply rooted to their surroundings. Similarly, the images of the cities, buildings and fields of grass showcase the essence of desolation. Standing in front of some of the photographs will have one believe that they are seeing the aftermath of an apocalyptic event which has frozen the world as it was. Cars look like they have never been driven, houses have never been lived in, and trains were abandoned.
Winships's work is an ironic play on the narrative of the American Dream that we have all become used to seeing and believing, especially in parts of the world like Bangladesh which could not be more removed - by distance and otherwise - from the promises and the realities of what the American Dream claims. What makes this series brilliant is the portrayed ordinariness, the plainness in which the images have been captured.
The dull and broken-down buildings and the dusty plains of America provide a window into a country that has been cherished to mean something dazzling and dream-like. Winship succeeds in breaking down all such lofty romantic ideas about the country and presents us with something beautiful in its own right, in its lack of colour and promise of a better future. Despite this, the images manage to tell the stories of the people that Winship encountered, the places that impacted her and the emotions she felt throughout her journey. The exhibition, which began on March 1, will run till March 9, from 11 am to 8 pm.