What is the relationship between Gottmann’s photography, his field work, and his books on the United States? In the field, the camera supported observation, yet, in Demangeon’s tradition, his fieldwork was also information gathering, as his diaries reveal.
With his camera, that he bought in 1953 to research his book on Virginia, he also ventured westward to discover the inner continent, and the pioneers’ frontier of American history. Then what is the significance of the large lots of slides not explicitly related to any specific project, such as those documenting his 1954 coast-to-coast journey, along an itinerary which constitutes the first “on-the-road fieldwork”?
By then, he was already well experienced in the cultural variety of Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Atlantic seaboard of the US. Then how does this relate to his quest on cultural regions, and on European and American philosophies of nature? As he penetrated the new landscapes observing with expert freshness, the variety of cultures and changes strikes us, as well as the distance between the immensity of the horizons, and the limited specificities coming under the geographer’s radar: land uses, settlements, buildings, genres de vie, and people.
There’s no search for security here: within his plan, it’s a freewheeling yet frugal iconography of movement, driven by a ‘search for opportunities’ in the peaceful depths of America, during the Cold War, before Presley hit the radio waves, or Kerouac wrote ‘On the road’.
If Megalopolis may seem distant, was this a way to get a deeper grounding into the inner continent to his ‘Americanism’, and take perspective on the eastern seaboard, of which Megalopolis would be the successive step?
And what is the significance of those photos he took in other missions outside the United States, especially those in Israel and in Europe, that don’t seem to relate to any specific book project?
In the end, I will discuss why some pictures are missing in relation to his work and life.
Keywords: Gottmann|fieldwork|photography|culture and psychology|unconscious