Holidays are always a good source of inspiration – especially the ones that define a culture. For those of us who live in the United States, July 4th marks our Independence Day (Also known as the Fourth of July) – the day that the Declaration of Independence was adopted in 1776. This important document began the Revolutionary War and declared our independence from England. Of course after a couple of hundred years, both parties have let bygones be bygones – but our nation continues to celebrate this important holiday. Almost all nations have such culturally rooted holidays. Such holidays are often a reason to pull out the camera in patriotic form. Such happened to be the case of of Caleb Long who took this photo, Star Spangled Banner (named for the US National Anthem), last year.
Holiday photos can quickly become cliche – everyone tends to shoot the same subjects or shoot the same styles. Quite honestly, it’s hard not to capture a patriotic subject without some feeling of it’s-been-done-before looming in the back of your mind. To some regard, this wouldn’t bother me in this case because I consider it cultural art. It’s not unlike the clay pots of the Native Americans, or the characteristic drawing styles of the Watusi tribes in Africa. Patriotic art or photography is Folk Art – and the subtle differences between two pieces are recognized and appreciated as such. So don’ t be afraid of cliches in your works around cultural holidays.
Of course that doesn’t mean that you can’t get creative like Caleb Long did. Star Spangled Banner is a photograph of the American Flag. Of course Caleb did not reveal much of the detail of the flag. All we are presented with are the field of blue and a portion of the stars. For those unfamiliar, the flag has 13 red and white stripes (one each for the original thirteen colonies) and there are 50 stars in the field of blue (one each for the current fifty states). But it shouldn’t take any American long to figure out that this is the American Flag despite not having such details. The flag – any nation’s flag – is iconic and is recognizable in nearly any context. For starters, focusing on one detail of the flag helps us to appreciate and admire such a specific but awe-inspiring detail: The pattern and power of those stars. Shot with the sun behind the flag, you can see a nice pattern of tiny threads. The introduction of this texture helps to really tie the pattern of the stars together. And not to get symbolic, but the threads remind us of how delicate our independence really was early on, and how tightly woven we are as a nation today and moving forward. A photo of the American Flag is somewhat cliche. But to shoot it in the manner that Caleb shot it – that’s artistic license. But what really matters is that Caleb chose to be patriotic and shot what really matters.
What does your nation’s flag mean to you?
Caleb’s work – specifically a self portrait – has been featured at Shutter Photo before. He is also a member of the Shutter Photo @ Flickr Group and regularly contributes his photos. You can and should, of course, view his latest works through his Flickr Photostream, where you will be inspired by his simple compositions and pop-art styling.