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LOST AND FOUND DIARY
French photographer Christophe Kutner documents his travels through the United States
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Photography Christophe Kutner 
Words Ray Siegel 

You constantly hear versions of the classic tale, “An American in Paris.” Christophe Kutner’s journey through all 52 United States is the exact opposite of that. When the French fashion photographer went on his first cross-country road trip last January, he found himself in awe of America’s landscape, each state’s own identity, and the disparity that can exist within a state’s own borders. So he began, “Lost and Found Diary,” a photographic documentation of his travels. “I began this work because I’m originally French and we have a certain vision of the United States. I’m so amazed and impressed by the landscape of this country. Each state brings its own color and its own flavor.” 


After meeting and greeting an American from every walk of life, Kutner’s motivations eventually turned sociological. “I realized that there were a lot of trailers, houses falling apart… this image of struggle and poverty in all of the states. New York and L.A. are the two images that we receive abroad, but it’s far different from the reality that is most of America. I began to see that the real America is very far from this image,” Kutner explains, “If you travel through the countryside of France, most of the structures are made of stone and have been there since the 16th century, but on the inside they have dirt floors. On the contrary, most American structures were made of wood, so when they’re not properly kept up, the effects are quite dramatic. I’d come across a decrepit structure and think, ‘does someone really live there?’ Almost every time, someone would appear in the window.” 


Kutner uses his explorative photo diary as way to make important comparisons between American and European culture. “If you’re French or Italian, you can’t be too patriotic or people will think you’re a fascist or a nationalist. In a way, Americans have a better understanding of their freedom. Many of the people I spoke to are distrustful of the federal government and don’t relate to its policies. They speak of overthrowing the government, which constitutionally, they have the right to do.” 


Another facet of Kutner’s ongoing project, which is turning out to be several years in the making, is that he revisits his subjects. “In Louisiana, when you meet someone in a bar, you’re in their hotel room before you know it—like in a Bukowski novel. There was a girl that I photographed there four years ago. I reach out to revisit her years later and now she’s covered in tattoos and living at her parents house. I also discovered new subjects through someone I knew in a given state or sometimes even through Facebook.”  


Given the nature of Kutner’s work, we weren’t surprised to hear about some bumps in the road (no pun intended) and even one run-in with the law. “I had no idea that I was visiting a New Jersey power plant that was providing power to the entire state. I was photographing it and someone reported me to the program, ‘If You See Something Say Something.’ The F.B.I. called and said they needed to talk to me about what I was doing in New Jersey! They said that it’s not forbidden to use the pictures, but that someone had reported me. The agent asked me to email him the pictures. So I was only on my sixth state and had already contacted by the F.B.I.! By the time I’ve visited all of the 52 states, I’ll have a lot of stories—that’s for sure!” 


The images below provide a sample of Kutner’s experience, but the full body of work (not yet completed) will be divided into 52 pamphlets made out of pastel-colored recycled paper that when pieced together will look like the kind of old United States map you’d find in a school classroom. Though Kutner still does work for fashion magazines, his newfound infatuation with realism is what’s keeping him inspired.
10 Mar 2014

LOST AND FOUND DIARY

French photographer Christophe Kutner documents his travels through the United States

Photography Christophe Kutner
Words Ray Siegel


You constantly hear versions of the classic tale, “An American in Paris.” Christophe Kutner’s journey through all 52 United States is the exact opposite of that. When the French fashion photographer went on his first cross-country road trip last January, he found himself in awe of America’s landscape, each state’s own identity, and the disparity that can exist within a state’s own borders. So he began, “Lost and Found Diary,” a photographic documentation of his travels. “I began this work because I’m originally French and we have a certain vision of the United States. I’m so amazed and impressed by the landscape of this country. Each state brings its own color and its own flavor.”

After meeting and greeting an American from every walk of life, Kutner’s motivations eventually turned sociological. “I realized that there were a lot of trailers, houses falling apart… this image of struggle and poverty in all of the states. New York and L.A. are the two images that we receive abroad, but it’s far different from the reality that is most of America. I began to see that the real America is very far from this image,” Kutner explains, “If you travel through the countryside of France, most of the structures are made of stone and have been there since the 16th century, but on the inside they have dirt floors. On the contrary, most American structures were made of wood, so when they’re not properly kept up, the effects are quite dramatic. I’d come across a decrepit structure and think, ‘does someone really live there?’ Almost every time, someone would appear in the window.”

Kutner uses his explorative photo diary as way to make important comparisons between American and European culture. “If you’re French or Italian, you can’t be too patriotic or people will think you’re a fascist or a nationalist. In a way, Americans have a better understanding of their freedom. Many of the people I spoke to are distrustful of the federal government and don’t relate to its policies. They speak of overthrowing the government, which constitutionally, they have the right to do.”

Another facet of Kutner’s ongoing project, which is turning out to be several years in the making, is that he revisits his subjects. “In Louisiana, when you meet someone in a bar, you’re in their hotel room before you know it—like in a Bukowski novel. There was a girl that I photographed there four years ago. I reach out to revisit her years later and now she’s covered in tattoos and living at her parents house. I also discovered new subjects through someone I knew in a given state or sometimes even through Facebook.”

Given the nature of Kutner’s work, we weren’t surprised to hear about some bumps in the road (no pun intended) and even one run-in with the law. “I had no idea that I was visiting a New Jersey power plant that was providing power to the entire state. I was photographing it and someone reported me to the program, ‘If You See Something Say Something.’ The F.B.I. called and said they needed to talk to me about what I was doing in New Jersey! They said that it’s not forbidden to use the pictures, but that someone had reported me. The agent asked me to email him the pictures. So I was only on my sixth state and had already contacted by the F.B.I.! By the time I’ve visited all of the 52 states, I’ll have a lot of stories—that’s for sure!”

The images below provide a sample of Kutner’s experience, but the full body of work (not yet completed) will be divided into 52 pamphlets made out of pastel-colored recycled paper that when pieced together will look like the kind of old United States map you’d find in a school classroom. Though Kutner still does work for fashion magazines, his newfound infatuation with realism is what’s keeping him inspired.