Let us now Praise Infamous Men
In Walker Evans and James Agee’s 1936 book “Let us now Praise Famous Men”, Evans and Agee conspired to illustrate the life of American sharecropper’s plight during Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal highlighting the struggles of Americans living during the dust bowl years and the resulting poverty that ensued. Saccharine to the point of decay, the assignment was funded by Fortune magazine for which Evans worked.
Presently, Brad Feuerhelm has taken the iconic photo-literary tract of Evans and Agee and has appropriated the tract to inverse the use of the photographic image in a political dialogue through the act of violent destruction by physically shooting all 200+ copies of the book point blank with a glock .45 in the summer of 2014. The author was in his words “at war with the obnoxiously persistent and tentacled filament of the military industrial complex in America and the societal Disneyland (absurdity) that has invoked complacency over the mechanics of it at large”.
Perhaps direct and somewhat abusive, the bullet that pierces each of the pages transcends the nominal photo-book into that of an anti-iconographic relic. The book becomes object in which violence has occurred and each of the portraits becomes a transgressive display of intolerance towards societal disregard for the economic war machine. Heads of several multi-national arms corporations, both domestic and international find their own image torn asunder by a violent act. The irony of which is that the book itself becomes an object to be re-sold to an audience pointing at the cyclical and futile irony of the presiding problem of complacency within the ever-expanding pursuit of capital largess through arms and military equipment sales. Possibly the first book to be physically shot in such a manner, the accompanying text by Feuerhelm and Michael Salu point combatively to the problems of becoming complacent under life at its extremes.
nb No two books are the same as they have been shot with live ammunition. Their ravaged nature is part of their appeal.