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Bittersweet America

Thomas Szalay | United States

A tired Statue of Liberty selling roses in Times Square, NYC. 2014.

My photographs document a changing time in America. They are my observations about our capitalist culture, loneliness in crowded places, overwhelming anxieties, differences between generations, religions, and power. What brings satisfaction or joy to one varies upon the day. Many of my images reflect my own bittersweetness of being human in this land of the free, home of the brave.

My photographs document a changing time in America. They are my observations about our capitalist culture, loneliness in crowded places, overwhelming anxieties, differences with generations, disenfranchised youth, wealthy conservatives with too much power. They seem to capture my own the bitter sweetness of being a human being. The following quote by photojournalist Elliott Erwitt has guided me over the decades:

“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place…I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” 

I’m in my late 60s now, and it seems natural to look back on all my wanderings and curiosities. My hands have touched thousands of people, it not in person, my digits pressed a shutter button while we were together occupying space and time. I found good fortune in my two careers. Teaching photography at West High School in Salt Lake City for 22 years fulfilled a desire to expose youth to the narrative power of the still image.

As a former newspaper photojournalist who concentrated on bigger documentary projects and photo essays, I know that the camera can become a doorway into a story about a life, or a community.  My style is straightforward. My photographs are honest images, capturing a chance moment in the dance of life, or revealing character in a portrait. I love the way a photograph freezes time and memory without making a lot of noise. Photography has always been a universal language that connects humanity, silently.

It is my desire that these images might provide some joy, sympathy, and spiritual support for of the human experience we all walk daily.

Thank you for your time.


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