The Picture Show
12:37 pm
Fri May 25, 2012

A Civil War In The Olive Garden Parking Lot

Originally published on Fri June 15, 2012 1:59 pm

Think about where you are, this very moment — and imagine all that has happened there before now.

When I was in college in Tennessee, for example, my neighborhood was nicknamed "The Fort," because that's exactly what it was during the Civil War. How weird to think that where soldiers once fired cannons, students today are doing keg stands. And actually, I wouldn't have been shocked to see Civil War soldiers milling around the neighborhood; re-enactments were — and are — huge in the area.

That interests photographer Gregg Segal. "I travel a lot on assignment for magazines and had been increasingly disturbed by the growing sameness of America," he writes in an email. "Wherever I traveled, I'd see the same strip malls with the same Olive Gardens and Jamba Juices and Panera Breads, etc., and I wanted to say something about the erasure of the past and the homogenization of the landscape."

He had been reading Tony Horwitz's Confederates in the Attic, a book about the South's sustained interest in the Civil War, and tracked down one of the book's key figures: Robert Lee Hodge, a "re-enactor, battle site preservationist and walking encyclopedia of all things Civil War," writes Segal.

Through Hodge, Segal met his cast of characters and, over the course of five trips to the South and Gettysburg, created this series of, for instance, soldiers camped out in front of Domino's.

"On a more abstract level, I'm interested in time," Segal explains, "and the unique capacity of the photograph to convey the past and present in a single image."

An L.A.-based commercial photographer, Segal is a prolific producer of personal projects like this one. Among many on his website is the one that shows superheroes at home — and "Remembered," a touching series about Alzheimer's. That fascination with memory is an obvious through-line of his work. So is a charming sense of humor and an affection for the absurdity of life.

If you happen to be in New York, you can see this work on display at Chelsea Market from through September and at Photoville in Brooklyn through August.

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