From the Heartland to Harlem: Love American Skin

Resource Magazine, 11/15/13

Diana-Scheunemann, love-american-skin, documentary, photo-book, drive-by-productions, resource-magazine

© Diana Scheunemann
PHOENIX, ARIZONA. James is a veteran. He has been homeless for 17 years. He owns a cell phone for his friends and family to reach him, and a bicycle, on which he has traveled the country. He misses his cat, who died recently, and he loves fishing.

When I was a student in Italy, there was a day in class when we were asked to go around the room and describe typical life in our country. The other American girl and I were stumped. The more we struggled to find an easy answer (touching on all the usual archetypes: baseball, apple pie, the American dream), the more we realized there is no such thing as the “typical American lifestyle.”

Diana-Scheunemann, love-american-skin, documentary, photo-book, pj-norman, drive-by-shoot

© Diana Scheunemann

With 316 million people and a geography ranging from tropical isles to frozen tundra to bustling urban centers to mountains to deserts and sweeping plains, the United States of America, we realized, is just that: a gaggle of diverse states, often with very little in common, that decided to unite behind a shared set of principles, for the good of the whole.

Diana-Scheunemann, love-american-skin, documentary, photo-book

© Diana Scheunemann
WEST STANTON, TENNESSEE. Karesha just graduated high school. She is leaving Tennessee to study Criminal Justice in Philadelphia. She refers to her sisters as brothers and describes herself as a “full-blown lesbian”.

In her new book, Love American Skin (out Nov. 15th), Swiss/German photographer Diana Scheunemann comes to a similar conclusion. She and her boyfriend PJ Norman set off on that great American pastime—the road trip—in search of an answer to that uneasy question: What is America? Sixty days, 10,128 miles, and countless interviews later, she’s ready to present her version of the story.

Love American Skin – Trailer from Diana Scheunemann on Vimeo.

A photo book and an accompanying feature-length documentary, Love American Skin is a sweeping mosaic of Americana, told through portraits, vignettes and stories from the people Scheunemann encountered. From a teenage rodeo champion to a Hopi farmer, a burlesque dancer to a homeless vet, Scheunemann’s subjects are eclectically diverse, and she portrays them all with great heart and honesty.

Diana-Scheunemann, love-american-skin, documentary, photo-book

© Diana Scheunemann
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA. Alexa is new to the porn business. She is 25 years old and today is her birthday. She just had her second boob job because after the first time her boobs felt too tight.

When asked about her reasons for undertaking the project, she says, “I was curious…The USA is so large, with so many dimensions…Everyone we met on this journey was enriching and welcoming. They let us into their homes and hearts. They took the time to show us their lives. They were so interesting to listen to, if only sometimes for the briefest of moments.”

Diana-Scheunemann, love-american-skin, documentary, photo-book

© Diana Scheunemann
SMITHVILLE, TEXAS. A born and bred cowboy, Arthur, has ridden horses his whole life. His horse is called Mondo. He is the seventh member of his family to work on the railroad.

An insightful patchwork of the lifestyles and viewpoints that make up the fabric of the United States, Love American Skin is a journey of “spontaneity, freedom, eccentricity and discoveries (that stands) as an emblematic ensemble of breathtaking landscapes and stories, people and situations.” Maybe it takes an ex-pat in a car to help us truly understand what it means to be American, which, as Scheunemann tells it, can mean being anything at all.

Diana-Scheunemann, love-american-skin, documentary, photo-book

© Diana Scheunemann
TAHOE, CALIFORNIA

Diana-Scheunemann, love-american-skin, documentary, photo-book

© Diana Scheunemann
MARFA, TEXAS

Diana-Scheunemann, love-american-skin, documentary, photo-book

© Diana Scheunemann
PHOENIX, ARIZONA

Diana-Scheunemann, love-american-skin, documentary, photo-book

© Diana Scheunemann
(illuminated flag)

http://resourcemagonline.com/2013/11/heartland-harlem-love-american-skin/

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