James Casebere: Credit, Faith, Trust

The American photographer speaks about his new exhibition, seen as a commentary on modern life and its complex anxieties

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Few places are as fabled or seemingly mysterious as the American suburb. Photographer James Casebere takes us there, returning to the American landscape he began to explore over thirty years in his Life Story works, in Credit, Faith, Trust, a new exhibition at Lisson Gallery that includes new and recent numbered works from Casebere's Landscape with Houses series.

Composed of handmade models that stunningly recreate the suburban area of Dutchess County in upstate New York, we are drawn to think not only of the way we live but the environment and the banking crisis and issues that populate one's daily life. Dazed caught up with the New York based photographer to discuss the importance of the present and its reality in his work.

Dazed Digital:Tell us about the elements of fantasy in these images.
James Casebere:
 Yes, there's a fantasy aspect in one image that features a rainbow or in image #3, which is dark, at night, but there's a sense of calm or serenity about it. Each image has a slightly different character. I think of them all as playful. In this case, we made quite a few changes in postproduction, the density of the fog, the colour of the sky or the shapes of the fires. At first, it felt a bit like a faded postcard, with sun-faded colours, but it is meant to be a picturesque present.

DD: What motivates the new images in this series, Landscape with Houses?
James Casebere:
 Credit, Faith, Trust almost the surrogate sponsor for this imagined space but it also refers to the banking crisis.  I prepared the images that include fires as if for the apocalypse to come and it's about the mood and sense of anxiety along with uncertainty and a lack of faith and trust.

Initially, I was trying to make an image that wasn't so much a parody of the overbuilt, oversized McMansions that you see in the American suburbs but something closer to a nonjudgemental representation of a suburban landscape. I wanted to depict how we live today and to create something that represented reality. They became more complicated, vaster, with much more detail. I suppose that there is also more colour, more action.

DD: More narrative?
James Casebere:
 Yes, there's a suggestion of narrative but it isn't so concrete. I don't really think of my work as narrative but I'm trying to encapsulate the moment or a feeling of that moment which tells a specific story.

DD: What moves you in your work?
James Casebere:
 There were two parts to the first subdivision in the series. One was an environmental issue and the other economic, so a lot of it is stimulated by the zeitgeist and what people are thinking about. It isn't always entirely conscious.

DD: What would you like to focus on in future works?
James Casebere:
 The last image that I took for the exhibition features two houses with the flames behind them and it is more akin to my earlier work. I want to concentrate on a smaller element of each image. I like the simplicity of these two houses and I'd like to explore that.

'Credit, Faith, Trust' runs at Lisson Gallery London 7 September – 1 October 2011, 

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