Photographer Chris Maggio shares exclusively with us a photo series themed on this weekend’s big star: the American flag. Peculiar, surrealistic, impertinent or absurd, his photographic approach combines a sharp use of photography with a conceptual twist. We think he’s hilarious. Enjoy his series and our conversation below. Happy July 4th everyone.
You seemed inspired each year by the 4th of July. Why?
I’m not so much inspired by the 4th as I am excited by the idea that it’s a time of the year when everyone is simultaneously thinking about one specific symbol: the American flag. As we’ve seen in the news recently, flags can, and should, mean an awful lot to people. They’re symbols of somewhat-collective, but also diverse, ideologies. However—it’s important to keep in mind that a country’s flag is also an object—an ubiquitous image that we walk by every day, not unlike a street sign or an advertisement. The image of the American flag is so pervasive that it’s an object without a specific owner (unless the copyright is buried somewhere within Betsy Ross’s family tree). I just enjoy playing with any sort of imagery that exists on that scale.
What references or ideas do you have in mind when you shoot those photos?
I like the idea of imagery becoming so widespread that it can be interpreted and used by anyone—often without the owner’s permission. It’s like a cashier at a corner store making their own sign with a hand-drawn Snickers® or Marlboro™ logo on it—I really like that kind of creativity. In our world, branding is a primary form of communication, and the brand of our country not excluded. It should be used creatively just as any other language is.
“It’s a time of the year when everyone is simultaneously thinking about one specific symbol: the American flag.”
Could you tell us a bit more about your photo with the rat?
I was moving my roommate’s subwoofer to make room to shoot photos and saw the hole. Supposedly, rats don’t leave farther than fifty-feet from their nest, so this rat has probably been there for a while. He’s become the closest thing I have to a studio-mate in my apartment, so I stuck a little flag there and waited for him to come back.
What projects do you have next?
I’d really like to live in a beach town who’s economy is very entertainment-based and fun there is heavily industrialized- like Ocean City, MD or Wildwood, NJ. Hopefully I can make some new friends there and photograph folks in the off season. If anyone has a cheap sublet that they know about—maybe they can let me know?