Laura Silleras photographs from ‘Daytona Beach’ are a depressingly familiar study of suburbia and an indictment of the tourism industry at what was once referred to as the most famous beach in the world. It’s this American mecca that Silleras brings us into, takes us behind the curtain of sunshine bliss to reveal the banal reality of life for the many who live in this part of Florida.
Yes, its sun drenched and if you’re retired and into white beaches, seafood shacks, clean safe suburbs, golf and NASCAR racing then this is the place for you but for the young and restless it’s the most boring place on earth. A cultureless vacuum in which nothing grows.
When looking at these pictures you’re immediately aware of the falsehood that the tourism industry spins wherever it travels to. Tourism is the nadir of culture, it boxes places, cultures and tradition up into a shiny package and sells it on to the customer at the highest price. It destroys the fabric of a place, and replaces it with a shiny plastic sheen that lives in its own reflection. And like anywhere else in the world Daytona is no different. The truth is that these photographs could be of anywhere in the world that the tourism industry is the main economic driver. Here in Ireland being a good case in point.
This illusion of paradise is exposed in Silleras photographs. We see the banality of modern life, the suburban myth writ large in garish neon and soulless bars and diners. It all seems such a waste. Of people trundling along through life without thought, safe in a bubble constructed by a tourism marketing department. It’s very familiarity is a sign that we’re all victim to it and must at all costs resist the temptation of a dream that cannot be realised.
For all their honesty and simplicity these photographs are socially important. They remind us not to take anything for granted, to think before we buy into the myth that our tourism industry spins on a daily basis. For once we’ve bought into their wizard of Oz illusion our culture is lost forever. Here’s what Silleras has to say about the series:
I found that a lot people were living their lives much as they would in another American town, the same struggles etc., but they were doing so in a place that promotes itself as being an escape from all of that.