Dear ZEKE Readers:
Each time I write this letter, I am completely exasperated by the current state of world affairs, and this time is no different. Since ZEKE is the magazine of global documentary, the greater global community is our community and the canvas on which we base most issues of the magazine. But unlike other issues of ZEKE, this is the first time that we have chosen to focus solely on the United States. And, coincidentally, it is also the first issue that is printed outside the U.S. Because of costs and supply chain issues, this issue of ZEKE was printed in Lithuania by KOPA, a printer that supplies many photo magazines for continental Europe.
While we call this The America Issue, we want to acknowledge our American neighbors to our north and south who are not included in this issue. We chose to use “America” to refer to only the United States because there is great currency in this term—especially in the photography community with the seminal body of work, The Americans, published by Robert Frank in 1959, that in many ways is the model for this issue of ZEKE.
Unlike other issues of ZEKE, the photos presented here span a greater time period than is often the case. This is because America is not time-bound or a specific event. It is a process that has been unfolding since 1492.
I am greatly indebted to the 18 photographers whom we feature in this issue, and to Stephen Mayes for his essay on Who We Are: Photography and the American Experience. I am also indebted to the dozens of other photographers who submitted outstanding work to this project but who we did not have the space to feature. And I want to thank Lisa DuBois and Barbara Ayotte for their invaluable insights while editing this issue.
The power of ZEKE and SDN have always been to present the voice and knowledge of visual artists who provide an alternate means of understanding issues in our world—distinct from our own personal experience or by written or spoken language. I hope these photographs provide this nuanced perspective of both the challenges facing us today, and our strength to overcome them.
America has always been a grand idea, if we can only keep our eyes on the prize of universal human value and dignity and the unbridled potential that can be achieved when we allow all humans to participate. No doubt our history is fraught with our exclusions of women, Black, Brown, Indigenous and other communities that do not conform to the mold of our “founding fathers”, but we do hope, and we will struggle, to get there one day.
Please join me in taking in and appreciating the photographs on the following pages and the photographers who have made them.