The American Imagination: A Survey of Myths, Tall Tales and Legends in the United States visualizes a wide variety of American stories in 15 chapters, touching on all regions of the country.
In our present era, which has seen truth conflated with opinion and political belief, familiar myths, tall tales, and legends present a disarming, nonpartisan entryway from which to approach some of our nation’s most divisive existential questions. From tales of flying saucers that followed the detonation of the world’s first nuclear bomb, to myths of slaves growing resplendent black wings and flying away, stories with fantastical elements tend to contain potent fragments of truth. Often disguised as entertainment, myths, tall tales, and legends are especially adept at addressing unspeakable pain, holding the fears and aspirations of a time and place. They allow for hyperbole in celebrating triumphs and provide an analgesic buffer in making sense of tragedies.
In this project manufactured images depicting regional myths, legends or tall tales exist alongside thematically related documentary-style portraits, scenes and landscapes, allowing for a tentative bridge between fantastical imaginings and reality. Each chapter also includes a long-form essay that considers the featured fantastical story.
This is a long-term in-progress project, slated for completion in 2026/2027. The images included in this gallery are intended as a broad overview. To see the project in full, please visit the dedicated website at www.americanimagination.com.