America is the inspiring muse of Arnaud Montagard, young photographer born in Nancy, France and now based in Brooklyn.
He moved to US at 21 years old to continue his business studies, but never passionate about them, he became a freelance artist of American culture.
He grew up with movies by Wim Wenders, Clint Eastwood, Tarantino, the Cohen brothers and with the fascination for street American graffiti, which he starts documenting with his first camera.
It is the street in fact the place where Arnaud’s photography will develop, the background of his pictures, while the composition of light and shadows will be the main character.
The play of lights draw lines that are “the roots of my picture, they determine how it is going to be compose”. Following them makes the viewer follow the story about to be narrated, a story about America.
In the last few years Arnaud Montagard drove thousands of miles along American countries: Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Pennsylvania, New Mexico and so on became the base of the series American Icons.
Exploring them he noticed similarities and signs that tell the same story of America even if they are spread in very different states.
In the fast transformation and gentrification of US of the past years, this series is a tribute of what is always present and iconic of American culture: the eye of Arnaud stops in front of motels lighting signals, old style cars and cafes…
It is perceivable a sense of temporality, America is at once full of changes and attached to its strong iconicity. That’s why the photographer decides to focus on certain little details, such us the ice-cream crushed on the street or the half empty coke inside the cafe, that make and freeze for an instant a piece of story of America.
Colours together with the geometry of light are what he uses to represent his views, “colour is an essential part of my work, I almost never shot in black and white, I feel like I would have miss something”. Arnaud’s reflection on photography is made by layers of elements (colours, light, shadows, composition, details), everyone has a part into the strong stories he develops.
Arnaud’s most recent series of 2019 presents instead just one place in America as its protagonist. “Nevada is a beautiful state, full of dreams and mirages”. All for our country is the title of the project and the motto of the state. It tells about contrasts of America, celebrating the other America, far from the bustle of the city. Indeed the atmosphere here is more past and desolate than in American Icons, images are motionless with more shadows than lights.
There are two images of an old motel called A friendly place to stay that seems anything but friendly, as if it hosted tragic moments and memories. But even though the abandonment and suffering these cities have struggled for, Arnaud is also telling a story about strength and love American people have given to their country.
“I met different people during this project, hard workers in the mines, people looking for gold, people who gave a lot to their country but who are surviving with nothing”.
He celebrates Americans as much as Americans celebrate themselves and their traditions.
To realise these series the French photographer has preferred analog cameras over digitals, maybe because they suit better the representation of an old style memory.
Also, they make him focus on the right moment and the right subject instead of spending too much time on a direct feedback of what has been just photographed. Through the time and the travels along the US, he has become a reflective photographer with a lot of thoughts ahead about what he wants to capture to be part of a series. Thoughts that have felt the influences of other artists of America like painters Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth and photographers Stephen Shore, William Egglestone, Harry Gruyaert.