“The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. [..] It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position. ”.
This is how American Dream was defined for the very first time by James Truslow Adams in his book “The Epic of America” in 1931.
The project “American Dream” begun in year 2015 as a part of Adelīna`s bachelor thesis research.
On behalf of it, for three months she traveled across the United States, covering more than 21 000 kilometers.
During the trip across the country, she was documenting the representation of the American Dream ethos, paying specific attention to the living conditions, social differences and the importance of money in the consumer society. While there have been many reportage and road-trip photography projects on America, this body of work aims to delve into a deeper understanding of the American culture and the importance of the American Dream in it.
American Dream postulates that every American has the rights and opportunities to achieve his or her goals no matter what is the person’s position in the society. And if you are willing to work hard, you will eventually achieve your goals. That is the concept of the American Dream which is based in the American ethos and the nation`s values that are shared among the American society – egalitarianism, individualism etc. In the contrary it`s interesting that since the late 1970`s the US has experienced economical downfall and since then the economical gap between social classes has only become wider – the lower and middle classes are becoming poorer and the upper class is becoming richer. Based on the Emmanuel Saez research, the Berkeley economist, has found that the America`s 1 percent`s share of total US income is roughly 20 percent.
Jim Cullen, one of the most popular American Dream researchers and author of the book “The American Dream. A Short History of an Idea that Shaped a Nation. 2003” have put forward an argument that the American Dream is the American people’s ethos or, in his words, the nation’s “glue”. But from what we can see is that this nation`s binder has a trend for self- destruction. The increasing economic inequality in American society, racial discrimination, sexist expression in various aspects of life calls into question the idealized concept of the American Dream. These were some of the core reasons for Adelīna to examine the American Dream phenomenon deeper in the American society.
Nowadays, the dream can be compared with a promise to the American nation that you are always given the chance and opportunity to achieve personal goals and ambitions no matter of one`s position in the society if you are willing to work hard enough. But the promise has constantly been subjected to capitalist monopoly and the government’s burden.
In the United States, it is believed that money is earned through hard work, not inherited, and on the contrary, those who have failed to achieve their goals, have worked less to achieve them. For as long as there will be inequality in the American society, the dream will be able to exist because there will be people who will want to achieve it. Such an assertion is clear from the context that it has created one of the world’s wealthiest nations with the highest income difference between the lowest and highest levels of society.
Adelīna Darviņa has been nominated for the FK Prize given out by Riga Photomonth festival for young photographers. The photo project “American Dream” will be displayed in the art gallery “Noass” in Rīga, Latvia starting from 17.05.2017 till 17.06.2017.
About Adelīna Darviņa
Adelīna Darviņa is in Rīga, Latvia based photographer. She started her photo career as a commercial photographer but in the past three years she has been interested in photography as a part of a research method. Since year 2014 she`s enrolled in BA social sciences and communication program Photography at Rīga Stradiņš University. During her studies, she has acquired passion for visual anthropology that she tries to implicate in her work. For the past years she has been passionate about exploring American culture and has dedicated her past two years for the American Dream project. [Official Website]