50 Main Street: the Face of America
Posted by: Gary Niebuhr
In his Democracy in America, Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville was able to see our nation from the perspective of an outsider looking in, breaking down our democratic society for the world to understand what was unique about our nation. People around the world looked at our country with envy and America went up on a pedestal to be admired.
Now, as things are a bit different in terms of how we view our nation, an Italian man named Piero Ribelli has undertaken a mission to provide a new view of America. “Growing up in Italy, I was inspired by the lessons of my parents. I was taught to look at the world as one big painting combining many different shades and colors.” While he could have joined the ranks of photographers and storytellers like Robert Frank (born in Zurich, Switzerland) or Lewis Hine who hoped their photographs would reveal what was challenging about our land, Ribelli wanted to be a positive photographer, saying “though the small moments that make up their lives are often humble and ordinary, they indeed do become exceptional when viewed as a whole.”
The task Ribelli set for himself was to visit all 50 states before he turned 50, meeting people who reside or work at the address of 50 Main Street. The series of vignettes becomes a wonderful exploration of the diversity of the United States while raising a flag of hope
The positive aspects of this work are what would make it a delightful work to use as a narrative nonfiction title. Each person’s story has aspects that would lead to the exploration of the state, the city they live and the life the residents of the households have chosen to live.
Plus it has really nice pictures.