America in crisis
The tenets of individual freedom, prosperity and equal opportunities have never been reality for most people living in the United States. Many Americans experience their homeland as a country marked by severe societal problems – high levels of inequality, racial discrimination, strong political polarisation between the different camps that came to light above all during the presidency of Donald Trump, as well as the alarming consequences of climate change.
Philip Montgomery, a Mexican-American photographer born in 1988, trains his lens on scenes that highlight the results of these long-standing fissures in the United States: protests against racism and police violence, overcrowded hospitals in New York at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, families who have lost their relatives to opioid abuse with thoughtlessly prescribed painkillers, or regions devastated by hurricanes and floods. In scenes like this, the photographer generally only has a moment in which to capture what is happening in such a way that it is perceived as part of a larger problem. However, Montgomery’s pictures never resemble snapshots; rather, they appear clearly composed and sometimes even arranged. The focus is always on people, often caught in dramatic situations. He employs a visual language that relies on close proximity, strong contrasts created mostly by flashlight, and a sense of pausing in the maelstrom of events. This effect is enhanced by his choice of black-and-white photography.
Although Montgomery also often works for daily newspapers and magazines, his pictures stand out against the barrage of easily consumable – and just as easily forgettable – images circulating above all on digital media. For example, the apparent timelessness of his photos of the demonstrations following the murder of African American George Floyd in 2020 calls to mind the images of mass protests during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, which are still a part of the collective memory. Moreover, Montgomery is not afraid to imbue his compositions with a certain sense of drama, such as when he photographs the naked, injured torso of an arrested Black man sitting in a police car: Every single grain of sand is visible on the skin of the man, who was obviously forced to the ground by the police officers, while their cars are a dazzling, immaculate white. The problems that have accumulated over generations and are still not resolved, and which ultimately led to the Black Lives Matter protests, are embodied in the brutality of this moment. Philip Montgomery’s photographs encapsulate the acute crises in America today in images that document people’s individual destinies in the context of the larger social challenges of our time.
born in California, USA
graduates in Photojournalism and Documentary Program from the International Center of Photography in New York, USA
awarded with the Pictures of the Year International
selected for the Foam Talent Program of the Foam Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam, Netherlands
publishes “American Mirror” in New York
lives in Brooklyn, New York, USA