Paul Shambroom is a photographer based in Minneapolis, which is much too “Minnesota nice” a place to be if you are interested in exploring American power and culture. Paul gets out, however, to where power is really on display: places like Mayville, North Dakota.
This monument of an F-84F Thunderstreak isn’t quite elegiac, but it surely is an inadvertent depiction of power in decline. The plane seems to be falling rather than climbing, and the marker in front could be a gravestone. The picnic table is an almost surreal touch, and suggests that there is no necessary relationship between the military machine and the agricultural economy in the background. Military culture and agriculture, two staples of a state containing both grain elevators and the Strategic Air Command, and yet as alienated as life and death.
The shrines to American military power are hardly limited to any one state, however.
Or to any one technology. Here a Titan I missile adorns the Krystal restaurant parking lot in Cordele, Georgia. The muscular assertion of male dominance is still there for all to see, but if that weren’t sad enough, just look at the rest of the scene. Once again, the weapon seems out of place–and we should be grateful that is not surprising–but now another relationship becomes evident. The symbol of power seems to be there to compensate for a civil society that can hardly rise above the mud. Whatever that missile cost, it seems more than would be needed to give Cordele an upgrade. The inverted flag in the rainwater makes the point all too clearly: while lifting up the symbols of national power, other national priorities have been left out in the rain.
Or that’s how it seems to me. The words are mine, but the photographs are Paul’s. I highly recommend that you spend more time with the photos.
Photographs by Paul Shambroom, from his Shrines series.