A new book released by Reel Art Press gathers a vast archive of images by Magnum photographer David Hurn charting his decades of trips to Arizona. The images begin when David was awarded a UK/USA Bicentennial Fellowship in 1979, which funded a one-year trip to photograph in America. With the whole country open to him, David chose to focus on Arizona.
“It was the most right-wing state in America, and Wales at that time was probably the most left-wing part of the UK,” says the 83-year-old documentarian, of Welsh descent. “Also it’s the driest state in America and Wales is the wettest. So it seemed to me it was such an extraordinary contrast.”
Known for his photographs depicting normal people in their everyday lives, as opposed to famous faces or typical shocking news imagery, David was drawn to the day-to-day lives of Arizonians. The black-and-white photographs explore cheerleading, horse-wrangling, Dolly Parton look-alike contests, fraternity dances, arm-wrestling competitions and ladies-only clubs with male dancers. In between are beautiful opportune moments, such as a teacher dressed up as a witch, pointy hat and all, for Halloween; and an orchard of cacti protected against night frost by paper cups.
In another shot from 1979, locals are gathered near a billboard advertising the perks of living in the state’s capital Phoenix – succinctly capturing a moment in the culture of 70s Arizona.
Arizona Trips by David Hurn is published by Reel Art Press. A selection of David’s private collection is on display for the first time at National Museum Cardiff until 11 March 2018.