The latest New Orleans Photo Alliance show spotlighting accomplished, if not always famous, photographers, The American Dream, offers an unvarnished view of life in these times. As a national precept, the American dream of an ever more rewarding life was getting a little frayed around the edges even before the economy's near collapse in late 2008, and the images in this show reflect something of that ambiguity in a kind of collective national snapshot. There is a marked matter-of-factness about these faces and places, and the tone is at times almost Lenten, as if the party is over and everyone is trying to hang on and make the best of whatever comes next.
But America is still America, and hope and pride are never far from the surface as we see in The Night Before Obama's Inauguration, Washington, D.C., by Roman Alokhin, a stark view of a black man in an overcoat, suitcase at his side, lit by a streetlight as he hunches over a cell phone in the pre-dawn expanse of the National Mall. The setting may be cold and dark, but the hope and anticipation are palpable. More ironic is Lili Holzer-Glier's White Picket Fence, a view of a picket fence bounding the neglected yards of some moldering frame houses in a blighted urban setting. Here the trim lines of the fence highlight the blight, putting an old cliche in a stark context. But this isn't the Great Depression. These days we have more of a safety net and no end of resourcefulness, and most people are getting by. In David Schalliol's Dinner at the Taco Stand (pictured), a pretty Latina serves her patrons from inside a trim white taco wagon. Framed by a Vermeer blue sky, this is a classic vision of an American dream that mingles today's reality with the hope of a more bountiful tomorrow. — D. Eric Bookhardt
The American Dream: National Juried Photographic Exhibit
Through March 21 (3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday)
New Orleans Photo Alliance, 1111 St. Mary St., 610-4899; www.neworleansphotoalliance.org