American Rocker
While working on Armed America and then War Paint I learned a lot about perception -- what we think of when we think of "us" and "them", and more specifically "not us". A reporter from Canada asked me if gun owners were normal people -- and I'd never thought of that before what's "normal"? Our perception of what normal is is something indelibly intertwined with who we are -- so asking "is someone normal" is asking "am I normal?" I realized something in the few seconds after that question was asked -- one of those thing is that I'm not normal. I don't have a dining room table, my mom thinks that's insane. I have a home theater where most people have a dining room. Periodically throughout the year, my mom will ask if I feel grown up enough yet to get a dining room table. Gun owners, I realized, in that moment, were probably more normal than I was. There are far too many rare subsets of "person" that I belong to to make me "normal" -- which is only to say that I'm probably not an adequate representation of "mainstream America" -- and what published author is? Already I've bubbled out of that norm. I'm not like most Americans. And most Americans are not like mainstream restoftheworld -- so they're not really normal either (something that was born out in spades by the overseas publication of Armed America).
     Among my peer group, my friends, other photographers without dining room tables, I'm exceptionally normal, though probably a little under-educated. I realized that in probably any single-interest group large enough you'll find some people who look like you, and some people who don't.
     "Well," I said (to the reporter from Canada -- are you still with me?), "I don't suppose they're any more or less normal than most other groups of people who have only one thing in common ... like, people who own rocking chairs." I tried to think of the most "normal" thing I could think of that someone would own. A few months later, I found that line coming back to me in the still watches of the night more than anything else I'd said to any other reporter. People who own rocking chairs. So I started asking my friends, "do you own a rocking chair?" These answers fell into two categories, people who said either "yes" or "no" and people who launched into a 20 minute nostalgia hallucination about being rocked by their mothers or sitting on the front porch with grandma. The rocking chair seemed to have far more cultural cache than I'd ever suspected.
     I have a rocking chair, it belonged to my Aunt Ella, who was the sort of aunt your family chooses as an aunt rather than the type that is thrust upon you by blood and birth. It's actually in the room with my giant t.v. -- where my dining room table ought to be.
 Stories From a Quiet Landscape
     by Kyle Cassidy  
 [the photos] [the project] [the photographer]