Nobody is looking at Niko J. Kallianiotis. Even when people are pictured in his book of color photographs, America in a Trance (Damiani, 2018), they are not the kinds of staged portraits that indicate a relationship between artist and model. Kallianiotis captures Americans going about their lives: walking through the streets of desolate towns, sitting on porches, pausing between the car and home, or outside storefronts.
Kallianiotis, who was born in Greece but has spent much of his adult life in the US, began traveling across his home state of Pennsylvania in 2015, taking candid images along the way. In so doing, he follows a great photographic tradition of capturing small-town America and its inhabitants, established in black and white by the likes of Walker Evans, Helen Levitt, and Dorothea Lange, and revolutionized in color by William Eggleston, Steven Shore, and many others. Kallianiotis is wise to keep his project narrow, focusing on images from the Keystone State, which he characterizes in the book as “a once prosperous and vibrant region where the notion of small town values and sustainable small businesses thrived under the sheltered wings of American Industry.” The vision of entropic decay in Pennsylvania’s small towns and cities is particularly affecting as it captures the reality of such regions within the geographic, cultural, and economic expanses of the United States — a nation so often reduced to romanticized or reductionist visions of its capital cities and rural areas.
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Niko J. Kallianiotis, “Lights On,” between Shenandoah and Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania (2016)