Project Room: Winter in America: 1974-1975
Jesse Drew, on Winter in America: 1974-1975:
"Gil Scott Heron’s song 'Winter in America' became a theme for me in 1974-75 and crystallized what America meant for many in the years when the euphoria of the 1960s lay crashed and burned, as the U.S. lost its supremacy in the world and the nation was wracked by unemployment, an oil and gas shortage, urban decay, and defeat in Vietnam. As a teenage runaway in the early 1970s, I was very involved in political movements of the day and lived mostly in communes in New England and California. When this communal infrastructure collapsed in the mid-1970s, I set out to see if there was still a utopian pulse to be found in America. Hitchhiking, and when possible, traveling by Greyhound Ameripass, I moved up and down the East Coast, through the Midwest, and ultimately out to California in search of an American revolution, taking photographs when I could. I traveled to Buffalo, NY in the aftermath of the Attica prison revolt; to Washington, D.C. where tens of thousands protested unemployment; to South Boston where people still fought the last major segregated urban school district; and out to California during the upsurge in Central Valley farmworker militancy. I was primarily interested in the masses of people, and mostly focused on the crowd. The resulting photographs resonate eerily with our current time in many ways. Like today, 1974-1975 was a time of great crisis in the U.S., with a strong recession, an energy crisis, a failed war, increasing levels of poverty and uncertainty, and—despite the gloom—a growing political movement that sought to provoke hope and inspire change. Amidst our current renewal of rebellion and occupation, I find the song 'Winter in America' to be more relevant than ever."