“Many of these images could have been made before the events of that painful day,” writes photographer Chris Maggio, “but they’ve just taken on a different gravity in its wake.”
He’s talking about the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Maggio’s series, the brilliantly titled Bored on The Fourth of July, is a biting portrait of Americana in the wake of Donald Trump. The dreamlike images distill the spectacle and dread of the past year into a series of vignettes: a Chevy that’s been shrink-wrapped with Abe Lincoln’s visage. A “Blue Lives Matter” T-shirt. A still from a Fox News graphic: “The Climate Change Myth.” Flags are everywhere, both the literal variety–wrapped over the trunk of a minivan or painted on the sweating face of a teen–and the imagined kind, spotted in the red, white, and blue cage of a zoo giraffe or half-painted roof.
It’s the perfect visual accompaniment to an era of absurdity, where fact and fiction commingle all around us. Maggio calls the series “both real and imagined,” which he says is a play on his own biases. “It’s my way of illuminating that, like so many other photographers, I’m an unreliable narrator–all imagery is influenced by the perspective and intervention of the person creating it,” he says over email. “‘Fake news’ is most often a ridiculous misnomer that’s intended to polarize audiences, but we do live in an era where the line between objective and subjective documentation has become quite blurry. My work explores that increasingly murky intersection.”
Maggio, who is based in New York City, has an eye for the mundane and absurd life of the city (do yourself a favor and check out his portrait of lunchtime in Midtown, or “the armpit of New York,” as well as his recent photos of Anthony Scaramucci), but it turns out that eye is particularly well-suited for capturing life in America at the end of 2017, too. “Like a good commercial on TV or a meme in your news feed, an artwork can be a clear and concise way of spreading ideas through our diverse culture,” he adds. “Even if people latch on to the work in different ways.”