Big Rock Candy Mountain is a photography series by Tammy Mercure. It beautifully illustrates the sheer scale of American culture both in terms of it’s physical size and it’s visual impact.
Set in the Great Smoky Mountains, Tammy captures the tourists, and the attractions that draw them, to America’s most visited national park. Despite the areas fascinating diversity of plant and animal life, the photographs draw attention to the man-made objects, which sit clumsily instead.
As Tammy explains: “The pure spectacle of the towns brimming with shopping, all-you-can-eat buffets, and pure entertainment, stop some visitors from even seeing the nature up close and unmediated.”
Tammy’s work provides an important social commentary on the Tennessee and North Carolina tourism industry. Her subtle eye for detail and tongue-in-cheek humour poke fun at the people who blissfully overlook the natural beauty of the area, instead drawn to the plastic-packaged souvenirs.
This is particularly evident in the images that make reference to the Native American. This theme, which runs through several pictures of the series, demonstrates blatant Americanization. We are shown the Southern Appalachian culture printed cheaply across a XXXL t-shirt and juxtaposed alongside a brash ‘we sell’ sign.
Even the ‘real-life’ example is an exaggerated copy. The Indian looks awkward standing upon a cracked, concrete road - a painted white line gives it away as a car park.
A personal favourite is the shot of a water fountain surrounded by lush foliage with a water bottle vending machine obtusely in the background. Although both are probably recent additions to the area, it highlights man’s unwelcome visit to nature.
This last point is addressed further in the first two images. Here, rotund tourists sit disinterested with jaw-dropping natural wonders behind them. Instead they pick their noses or drawl over a theme park map for more gluttonous entertainment.
Tammy’s work is a thoughtful record of a culture that presents it’s own modern symbols alongside less recognisable, yet more incredible, natural landscapes. It shows the familiar consumerism and craving for capitalist enterprise but not in the bustling cities where it is expected; in the peaceful rolling forests of the Great Smoky Mountains.
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