A PINK FLAMINGO
The book takes its name from the fabulously kitsch bright pink plastic flamingo designed by Don Featherstone in 1957 and Latham says “I saw the flamingo almost as a parody of the American flag. [...]”
A Pink Flamingo takes us on a melancholic, visual journey along the Oregon Trail, a historic route established in the 1830s by fur traders. Since then hundreds of thousands of settlers, missionaries, farmers and gold seekers have trampled across the trail from Missouri to Oregon in search of a better life. Latham first learned about the trail as a kid, while playing an educational video game where you had to take your family safely across the trail without any of them dying. In search of a project to get stuck into during his final year studying photography at Newport, his thoughts kept returning to the game.
“It was 2012, a few years after the financial crash. I wanted to photograph the people who lived along the trail almost as if they were the ancestors of the people who didn’t make it to Oregon. I was interested in this idea of travelling west as a metaphor for the hope that things will get better. […] The Midwest is talked about in terms of ‘the flyover states.’ A lot the people I met were facing financial uncertainty – people who lived in motels, some who lived in cars, hitchhikers, people who were in between jobs, who’d started a new family; all of them were, I felt, a good representation of where America was then. There’s this phrase, which I loathe, but it does sum it up: ‘the failure of the American dream’. This ideal that anyone can go to America and have a semi-detached house and a car is not a reality for many people in the Midwest.”
Over nearly three years Latham did several trips of up to a month, often sleeping in his car, then scratched cards. As a tribute to this, the images of the cards are presented on the book. But the scratch cards were more than a bit of fun. In fact, they’re an integral part of Latham’s creative strategy – to cast aside his expectations, embracing whatever the experience threw at him.
“If you go in with too much of a preconceived idea you end up biasing yourself so I just let things happen by chance. When the pioneers were travelling west, they never knew what the next day held, nothing was planned except from getting from A to B. I wanted to replicate that in the way I worked.”
― Statement from the distributor