Portraits of An American Bicentennial
PHOTOGRAPHS BY RICHARD BEAVEN
…my long-term approach is to create a wide-ranging survey of this time in the Hudson Valley examining cultural and political themes. My goal is to contribute meaningfully to the broader archive during this challenging and transformative moment in American history. — Richard Beaven, Photographer
Over 2,000 years ago one of humanity’s most profound thinkers, Aristotle, stated that the whole of our parts is greater than the sum. Collectively, the bits and pieces of all our differences can, theoretically, combine to reveal a better, more complex, us.
It’s difficult to see this today with the geopolitical divisions growing seemingly deeper and deeper with each passing hour. “America is caught in what has been described as partisan hyper conflict dividing politicians, communities and families,” writes British photographer Richard Beaven. “This polarization has become so intense that many people no longer trust, respect or relate to anyone with a differing perspective.”
Beaven, how hails from Exeter in the county of Devon, England, has made the small Hudson Valley town of Ghent, New York his full time adopted home since 2011. Inspired by his town’s bicentennial in 2018, Beaven spent the 200th anniversary year meeting with and photographing the community of Ghent, crisscrossing back and forth over the 149 miles that comprise the town area. The individuals he photographed range in age from infant to elderly; and have lived or worked in Ghent from just five days to over ninety years.
More than 80% of the people Beaven met with were “strangers” to him at the beginning of the All of Us project. By the end, Beaven had created a narrative of a small, rural town through the resulting 276 portraits, and commemorated a specific time and place in American history. Sixty of these portraits can be found in All of Us: Portraits of an American Bicentennial (Daylight Books), foreword by Kira Pollack and essay by Tom Lewis.
Richard Beaven (b. 1966) is a British documentary portrait photographer whose work centers on communities and cultures around his home in The Hudson Valley, New York where a rich history of European settlement exists.
His work specifically investigates senses of identity and belonging informed by personal experiences as an immigrant and observations, simultaneously, as both insider and outsider. He studied communications and geography followed by advertising in which he built a career before quitting nine years ago for photography. Advertising enabled Beaven to study people and behaviors which now fuel his portrait practice. His work has appeared in National Portrait Gallery (UK), International Center of Photography (NY) and has been awarded by American Photography and National Press Photographers Association. All of Us, published by Daylight Books, is Beavan’s first monograph.
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