America’s Most Perfect Village

During my youth, it was easy to get sucked into the overdrawn and omnipresent story of the American way of life and to see it superior in many ways compared to my own. As a person with an immigrant background from rural northern Germany I yearned for somewhere more open, diverse, and egalitarian. Across the Atlantic, there was a place that promised to satisfy this yearning, something that would even be a model for things to come, almost within my reach but never fully attained. What was behind my yearning? It is the question of who I could’ve been over there: would I have been more me or would I have been an entirely different person?

Even after many ventures to and through the United States, the question has to be left as open as the title: America’s Most Perfect Village. It shouldn’t be read without any irony: it is a self-attribution of one of the towns in central Upstate New York, where I photographed this series. During my stay with my good friend Colin, who indeed grew up and now resides there, and, just like many people from his environment, defines his own notion of Americana, far from denim, pop, and malls, I got closer to the jankiness of the things, the things that are good enough when they just work. A notion with little pathos and perfection, but with the multifaceted reality of the American countryside as it is today.