In December of 2013 I embarked on a journey I promised myself before turning 30 years of age. From New York to Texas, I observed the Couch Surfing community by participating with no familiarity or prior experience. I wanted to see what America looks like from the inside, and learn more about the reasons for inviting a stranger to one’s home.
I approached this project with a neutral perspective as possible, simply due to the fact that I knew nothing about this intriguing community. The study process started online and became interesting right away. The reactions I received for my ideas were split between people who found it fascinating and people who did not want to take part of it, and complained that the community is not what it used to be. Since I had no experience Couch Surfing I didn’t have any recommendations from previous hosts, which caused many potential hosts to refuse my request to stay with them. So where does one start?
I arrived at Julia’s place in Spanish Harlem at 9:19pm on a breezy December evening. She wasn’t there. Pacing the buzzing politely, my cold finger quickly started to lose hope in what was suppose to be a magical first Couch Surfing adventure. Right before I gave up Julia showed up from around the corner, and apologized for being late. I felt relieved. We walked up to her apartment on the second floor. Julia suggested we go to dinner and I said I would love to grab a bite. She was on a date, and I had no idea that was the website I signed up for. As soon as I sensed that I gently brought up my partner in the conversation and the evening went on a different path. We had such a great night together.
Right behind the couch I was sleeping on, I noticed the roses wallpaper. I fell asleep in this gloomy Manhattan apartment.
Surfing U.S.A is a collection of feelings in the shape of spaces and faces. It invites the viewer to wake up and go to sleep in somebody else’s home, and get a glimpse of America behind four walls.
Every time I go for a visit back home, I always make sure to go through our family photos, stored in old shoe boxes in my mom’s closet. I just love that feeling I get looking at each one of them and remembering how it was like growing up. However, in the past few years I really started questioning that experience of visual reminiscence. I found that without the actual pictures in front of my face, I couldn’t seem to remember how my childhood was like at all. As unfortunate as it may be to realize, all of my childhood memories might in fact be based on family photographs I’ve been looking at since I was a child.
In 2012 I decided to start a photographic series called “Memories Remebered”, in which I challenged the boundaries between true facts and “false” memories created by those beloved family photographs. Essentially, the process of making this series was reversed and I will explain how. Instead of looking at the images and recollecting memories (whether they were true or false), I went back to were I grew up as a kid and photographed all the places that were part of my daily life. I noticed that after I spent enough time in those places, as well as enough time looking at the images after, I started remembering true moments I had experienced as a kid in each specific place. It almost seems that all I needed to do was to disconnect myself, both visually by removing myself from the photos, and mentally by accepting the fact that my memories are mostly fabricated to begin with.
From New York to Reno these are all snaps from my 2013 road trip across the United States of America.
“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” - Elliott Erwitt