American born, M L Casteel is an award-winning photographer and educator whose work focuses on the perils of the human condition. He attended the Hartford Art School International Limited Residency Photography Program and gained an MFA in Photography. AMERICAN INTERIORS, published by Dewi Lewis Publishing in 2018, is Casteel’s first book. Featuring essays by Jörg Colberg and Ken MacLeish, the book is available at www.dewilewis.com
About ‘American Interiors’:
American Interiors depicts the psychological repercussions of war and military service through images of the interiors of cars owned by veterans in the USA.
It is generally recognized that the condition of one’s dwelling can often be a signifier for one’s state of well-being. Whereas the interior design of a person’s home is executed with varying degrees of intentionality, the arrangement of space within a person’s vehicle is typically a matter of small consequence. This leads to more spontaneous configurations, undesigned interiors, that may relate more to a particular frame of mind or serve as a form of situational consciousness. I see the state of these car interiors as manifestations of human interiors.
The field of Environmental Psychology examines the influence of physical space on the way a person thinks, feels, and interacts with the world– as well as the impact these culminated psychological states have upon one’s surroundings. Within this framework, it is possible to discern that intimate private environments, such as vehicle interiors, can provide spatial equivalents to human emotions.
As a series, American Interiors strives to depict elements of the human condition relevant to life as an American veteran via psychological portraits. These images agglomerated, are to serve as a kind of Social Geography in which an examination of space speaks to greater issues pertaining to society at large, and the veteran experience in particular.
In the accompanying essay to Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel’s book Evidence, Robert F. Forth writes that “we tend to forget or ignore the unfamiliar and sometimes unrecognizable circumstances which undergird and surround the familiar and evident.” Indeed, I see my work in American Interiors a s existing in this area between “the circumstantial and the evident.” Somewhere in the space that separates the slickly produced military recruitment ads from the statistics about rates of veteran homelessness and suicide is where American Interiors lives.
American Interiors is my attempt to bridge a deep sense of rebellion and outrage towards institutionalized violence (via warfare and the American military industrial complex) with the empathy and respect I hold for the people who have survived the military experience. The agglomerated ‘portrait’ is not a pretty picture, but it is an accurate representation of what I see and feel regarding the plight of the American veteran.