It has been an exciting couple of weeks around here. In the midst of frantically prepping for BEA, we received advanced copies of our much-anticipated title, 50 Main Street: The Face of America by Piero Ribelli. From the second we heard about Piero and this project we knew it was a perfect fit for C+Co. Piero moved to the US when he was twenty-seven to start a new life as a professional photographer. He made it his mission to visit all 50 states before he was 50. Along the way he photographed the address of 50 Main Street in every state. The outcome is breathtaking…
“…Each picture rests in the belly of the soul of generosity, in doing so they give one a view of America which has been diminished and needs to be revisited. Piero is a visualist of profound moral worth; his pictures allow one to hope and smile…” – Larry Fink, Fine Art Photographer
This has been such a long and rich journey for Piero, so we invited him to blog about it this week. Enjoy!
I can’t believe it’s finally here.
Last week I received the advance copy of 50 Main Street, eight years after shooting David, my first subject in Washingtonville, NY. He’s the guy on the cover, by the way.
I have been printing mock-ups for the last seven years so I was very familiar with the images and the layout of the book, but when I opened the box Chris sent me from the printers, I couldn’t find words to express my joy.
Except for WOW!
Eight years of my life flashed through my mind. 16,000 miles of driving, from the initial explorations of New York state in search of the first subject to the straight highways of the Mid West, from the desert roads of New Mexico and Arizona to the snow storms I had to survive going across the Rocky Mountains. 31,000 miles of flights, taking me to exotic locations such as Hawaii and Alaska but also to more mundane places like Florida and Ohio. All of this with the excitement of a child, discovering new places and looking forward to encountering new people. The subjects that became the soul of 50 Main Street are now my new friends and not one day goes by without something reminding me of them.
Sometimes it’s hard for me to think of the days before 50 Main Street. It has taken so much of my energy and it has literally changed my life. My view of the nation has evolved and so did my personality. The lecture that my friend Peter imparted on me back in 1985 has become more and more clear as I met more people on my journey throughout the 50 states.“America is made as much of the desert of Arizona as of the forests of Vermont, as much of the cowboys of Wyoming as the Wall Street brokers in New York. The BBQ in Texas, the jambalaya in New Orleans, and the mojitos in Miami. America is all these things; that’s why America is so great!” (from the book introduction)
The mythology of Main Street has for generations fed the social, economical, moral, and political discourse in this country. It has been both praised and vilified; made into a sensible majority, a moderate voice, an impersonal mass of like-thinkers, vice and virtue of the country, yet, it has rarely been individualized. I truly believe that in this book, even as limited to 50 people, Main Street has finally been given a face.
I would like to mention a few of the people who make the book special. And I would like to do it in their own words.
“Annie,” Helene explains, “lets you buy on credit, and will happily order something you want, if it’s not in stock. You just don’t find places like that anymore. I can sum it up in one single word: hospitality! Everybody knows everyone and most of them are related…”
Helene Barnes, Clayhatchee, AL
“To me it’s a real charge, to hold a book that is seven or eight hundred years old and think of all the people that might have held it. It’s like holding something sacred. I own about four thousand books at the moment…”
Jack Ellwood, Mesa, AZ
“I get kids in my gym that, sometimes, are from the probation department and they are in trouble. With time I see them get back into school, bring their grades up, and make themselves better people. To me that’s great success!”
George Sylva, Ventura, CA
“That’s the only time I really like to do stuff—riding and cutting the grass. I can get my mind off of everything else, and I can think about what I want. It just makes me feel good. It’s one of those stress relievers, I guess like smoking cigarettes. That’s how I feel when I ride the four-wheeler. I feel free.”
Donald Hahn Jr., Franklin, LA
Please feel free to comment with your own Main Street experiences, and let’s take it to the attention of the nation. In these days of “Too Big To Fail,” “Wall Street Bailouts,” and “Occupy Movements” let’s tell the world that Main Street still counts!