A photographer sets out to capture the decaying main streets of America in this photo book.
Many of the country’s small towns are undergoing tragic transformation, as increased automation and outsourcing have eliminated factory jobs, and in many places, the steel and coal industries have largely dried up. In this debut collection, Chiusano, a retired professional photographer, documents these communities. He spent much of his life in the suburbs of Boston, but after the death of his wife of 36 years in 2009, he took to the roads, exploring locales outside of America’s coastal hubs and documenting forgotten parts of the country. These include small towns below the Mason-Dixon Line; quiet, rural unincorporated territories of New England; and desert warehouses in the Southwest. He shows—in digital and film images, in color and black-and-white—how mom-and-pop businesses of yesteryear have been replaced by franchises, such as Dunkin’ Donuts, but also how entrepreneurs have turned old retail locations into small restaurants or odd, niche curiosity shops. Although Chiusano’s text sometimes expresses optimism it’s often difficult to see it in the faces of the people he captures in his photographs. One image of an elderly couple helping each other walk down the street, for example, is particularly tragic, as nobody from the next generation is around to assist them. The author’s captions, though, are short and imprecise; some reveal their subjects’ location and others don’t, and Chiusano’s journey isn’t presented in any discernible, chronological order. Instead, loose categorization breaks the book up, with headings such as “Structure,” “People,” “Pride of Place,” and others, although these seem largely interchangeable. Despite the focus on people and the places where they live, the book also revels in old signage, logos, and advertisements—an appealing flourish that could easily have anchored a section unto itself.
A stark and meditative but loosely organized coffee-table book.