Leonardo Reviews: Barnstorming the Prairies

By Jan Baetens
Leonardo Reviews

Barnstorming the Prairies by Jason WeemsA book on modernization through aerial photography in the Midwest in the 1930s? There may be a lot of reasons to immediately skip it. Isn't modernity a quintessentially urban phenomenon that has nothing to do with country life and certainly not with the country life in the Midwest as we imagine it? And what can be the relationship between aerial photography, something we spontaneously associate with warfare and, more generally, power and colonialism? Finally, isn't there a kind of inherent contradiction between the terms culture and Midwest? The best possible answer to this kind of biases and prejudices is to read the amazing, refreshing, and throughout thought-provoking study by Jason Weems, which is not only a major contribution to our knowledge of Midwestern culture but also a superb example of the broad and interdisciplinary examination of what seems to be at first sight a technical gadget: aerial photography.

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