Neels Castillon‘s photographs from ‘American West’ seek to encapsulate the America of our European imagination; the vast stretches of empty road through the desert, its consumer culture, the juxtaposition of sex and Christian evangelism, all of it seething in a melting pot that has made America the powerhouse of modern material culture. A place we can never get enough of.
As a film maker and photographer Castillon has a cinematic vision, his work straddling art and documentary, his influences rooted in the work of Robert Frank, Stephen Shore, Alec Soth and the painter Edward Hopper, all of them sharing the same cinematic commonality, all of them weaving images to create a single narrative, a pictorial expression that divests of the surface image and dives into the atmosphere and stories behind their subject matter. It’s in this spirit that Castillon took a road trip through California, Arizona and Nevada, his pictures looking to capture a story that has enchanted artists, writers and film makers for over 150 years; the cities, landscapes and people who have made a life on the fringes of a hot, barren desert.
Castillon’s photographs take in the empty ramshackle shacks lying in ruin in Death Valley, women in hot pants, preachers selling God, hookers advertising their services on billboards in Las Vegas, vendors on Venice beach. Each image a microcosm of a rich and vital life that has stimulated the imaginations of generations of people looking for a new way to express themselves, to find space to find what it is they’re looking for. Here’s what he has to say about his series:
The pictures I am looking for have, in a certain way, always something to do with cinematography. My series of photos are often made of portraits of people I find fascinating, about whom I wonder: “What’s their story?” Contrasts are fascinating: disproportionate cities go alongside gigantic natural parks, strippers share the Los Angeles pavement with preachers yelling their sermons into a megaphone. It is a fabulous place to go through in road trip because of this incredible diversity.