“Subtropical fever dream”: Anastasia Samoylova’s photographs – culture
There are two paradises in the mythology of American reality. One is built on sand, the other in swamp. Both are doomed. There are countless books, songs and films about the California apocalypse. Florida but remains largely a mystery, a topographical appendage jutting into the Caribbean hurricane area as if it doesn’t quite belong to the continent. That also sums up the attitude to life in this muggy, mosquito-infested state that literature, film and art rarely deal with.
The American photographer Anastasia Samoylova has now followed in the footsteps of Walker Evans. The pioneer who died in 1975 photography, who develops her social criticism via the detour of a literary capacity for abstraction, has been touring in the south-eastern US state time and again since the thirties. Evan’s images are Samoylova’s starting point for her exploration of an imminent end of the world. For that is the common thread running through all of Evans’ juxtapositions in this volume, in their citations of William Eggleston’s sense of morbidity and references to Robert Frank’s sense of the loneliness of the American Dream.
The capital Tallahassee is much closer to Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi than the Caribbean metropolis of Miami
Everywhere the end of civilization creeps and proliferates in its Florida through the joints and cracks. People tend to be extras in the drama of their own downfall. Even when she photographs a woman in a disco top sipping happy hour cocktails on the terrace of one of those beachfront skyscrapers that are the dream of so many tourists and retirees, the sunset lurks with the cloud behind neighboring towers full of uncertainty. Because the real catastrophe is the climate.
She calls Florida a “subtropical fever dream”. She herself lives in Miami, the megacity with the attitude of the never-ending beach party and the unstoppable real estate boom. But she is not fooled. Taking the magic out of such sunlit dream destinations with the camera is a high art, without resorting to tricks and clichés. On the last double pages, the downfall has already taken hold of this colorful world. The apartment buildings stand in a sea of tropical forest that almost swallows them up. Algae and silt have covered a wrecked motor yacht in the sound in front of the skyline. And then there is the alligator, the primitive creature that lurks between the mangroves.
Samoylova’s book comes at just the right time. In November, the US political climate is likely to turn 180 degrees again in the midterm elections. Then Florida becomes the state of destiny. Two men are preparing to run for the Republican Party for President in two years’ time. donald trump resides there in his private club Mar-a-Lago, one of those unworldly luxury fortresses that his predecessors wrested from nature down there. The other is the state governor Ron de Santis.
Because of his office, he lives in Tallahassee, the provincial town in the so-called “panhandle” with which the state extends westward into the continent. It’s a bizarre place up there on the Gulf of Mexico. It is not only geographically much closer to the hillbilly regions of Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi than the Caribbean metropolis of Miami or the tourist strongholds of Orlando and Tampa. All those live there for whom Florida wasn’t the dream destination after all, but only the final destination. And it is precisely these areas and people that Samoylova visited for “Floridas”.
It certainly wasn’t planned, but you can see the volume very well as a metaphor.