Jean-François Bouchard, In Guns We Trust
In the exhibition In Guns We Trust, Jean-François Bouchard’s fleet of cinematic photographs, found objects, and video carve out a complex image of American gun culture deep in the heart of Arizona. Eerily lit, taken from aerial views, these vivid images relay the effects of a culture on the land while offering panoramic insight into a social sphere otherwise concealed.
Deep in the heart of America, one feels transported to the war-torn regions of the Middle East. The recreational use of military-grade weapons has become a cherished pastime for many aficionados. Shooting ranges host events each year attracting thousands of participants who use machine guns, canons, bombs and even tanks.
Their targets include zombie pictures, barrels, mannequins, scrap cars and explosive charges that go off when hit. They see this activity both as a sport and a way of life that is connected to the American ideals of freedom and self-reliance. Jean-François Bouchard’s photographs show this reality from a new perspective by documenting the shoots’ resulting devastation.
Many photographers have taken an interest in gun culture in the USA. But Bouchard’s point of view brings to light the new extremes of military-grade weapon use and adopts a cinematic form that transform reality into a surreal and eerie parallel world.
Shot from the sky or in the mysterious depth of night, the theater of the shootings becomes simultaneously of great beauty and agonizingly alien. Bullet-ridden shipping containers glowing in the night, decimated vegetation and exploding or burning scrap cars show the aftereffects of this fringe group’s passion for heavy armament.
“Through his surreal series of images and installations, Bouchard parses the extremity of this marginalized gun culture at ground zero, their place of worship,” writes photographer Edward Burtynsky in the book. “The book is a must-have for curious minds trying to comprehend the perplexing condition in which we find ourselves.”