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The magazine of the art-form of the photo-essay “A free, really high quality photo-essay magazine.  Fabulous!” Stephen Fry. British actor, writer and film & documentary maker
Feb 2016 back issue
Christmas in America: Happy Birthday Jesus
by Jesse Rieser
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Beyond the glowing green and red lights, past the shimmering silvery tinsel, around the fragrant pine boughs, another Christmas lingers, a Christmas of contradictions. This is a Christmas where carved foam soldiers guard Santa in the parking lot of a church just before a holiday parade.  This is a Christmas where thousands of Santas run in an annual fundraising race, a sea of red hats and performance apparel. This is a Christmas where garages and homes are transformed into elaborate, festive wonderlands. This is a Christmas where Christian families reenact the birth of Christ, where Santa plays pool in a bar and where more is more is more. This Christmas is complex and at times, uncomfortable. It’s awkward and sometimes bleak. But it is also sincere and celebratory, colorful and creative. This is the Christmas I capture in this first chapter of a photographic exploration of the biggest event on the American calendar. I grew up in a secular home and at times felt like a Christmas outsider, never connected to the holiday’s r eligious importance, or its more extreme cultural trappings. But in these photos, I become a Christmas insider, working to discover and reveal what holiday magic, or mania, compels so many to devote thousands of hours to hanging lights, to carving and painting figurines, to building miniature villages, to converting their homes, yards, garages and cars into monuments to merriness. Initially inspired by the absurdity of a five story inflatable Santa who appeared to be guarding a tree lot, I have launched this survey of uniquely American Christmas traditions. “Christmas in America” is an unvarnished examination of the ways people mark the holiday’s meaning.
Flocking Station. Glendale, AZ. 2012. Pacific Furs Tree Lot.
My Sled. Phoenix, AZ. 2011. Clark Residence.
Domesticated Reindeer. Surprise, AZ. 2012.
Christmas Tree Study No 2. Riverside, CA. 2012. Salvage Yard.
Christmas Morning. Glendale, AZ. 2012. Residence.
Mr. Chuchla’s Living Room. Phoenix, AZ. 2011. Residence.
Santa Sea. Las Vegas, NV. 2013. The Great Santa Run.
Protecting Dreams. Phoenix, AZ. 2011 North Phoenix Baptist Church.
Happy Birt Jesus. Phoenix, AZ. 2011. Residence.
Bavarian Christmas Village Garage. Tempe, AZ. 2012. Residence.
TV Room. Mountain Home, ID. 2013. Residence.
Christmas Tree Study No 3. Alys Beach, FL. 2013. West Sugar Lump Lane.
Pawn Shop Santa. Phoenix, AZ. 2013. Mo Money Pawn Shop.
Dive Bar Santa. Las Vegas, NV. 2013. Stoney’s Rockin’ Country.
The Star of Bethlehem. Park City, UT. 2013.
Christmas On Elm Street. Boise, ID. 2013. Residence.
Wirschern Sisters’ Christmas Dinner. Phoenix, AZ. 2011. Wirschern Residence.
Bob Rix’s Dining Room. Phoenix, AZ. 2011 Rix Residence.
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