|German and English editions of Travelling Across the USA|
|from Travelling Across the USA|
Of course, these details matter little -- the essence of the collection isn't in clearly depicting the United States in 1954, but rather how Diez portrayed it. While he covered a lot of ground, his images aren't an expository view. They were captured as a changing tide was about to envelope the country, the same year as Brown v Board of Education, but aside from two images depicting members of Hopi and Seminole tribes, the America in Diez's photographs is entirely white. A single image of the backs of some buildings labeled "Black tenements" brings this omission into view. The United States shown by Diez is idealized yet not staged or shined up. It is perhaps the end of a time of American innocence, or more aptly, the end of a time when America believed in its innocence.
The essay by Georg Diez, Paul Gerhard Diez's son, that concludes the book is honest and touching, putting the photographs into a personal context, which ultimately, is just where this collection should reside. Recalling seeing the images in a slide show as a youth, Georg looks to the photographs for traces of the photographer, finding evidence of his father within the frame. Particularly as an American, it is difficult to look at these images without considering the implications of the time period they depict, but the book ignores these surface concerns and instead shifts our attention to how photography allows us to shape the world we represent and how this is a reflection of the self. Diez's images can only give us a cursory look at the United States he visited, but they can certainly inform us about the man who took them. It is a beautifully simple book, one of deceptive thoughtfulness. -- Sarah Bradley