American Pastimes


This work is about the highs and lows of American culture. There is a certain strangeness in the different pleasures in which varying people partake. The diversity of this country makes it a challenge to attempt to document these variations.

I am attempting to capture an American moment. I feel that most of my images come across as distinctly American and I have turned that decisive moment of these people performing their pastimes into what I like to call an “Americanism.”

In the future I want to branch out and work with the racial, economic, religious, and cultural diversity that this country is known for. I am looking to show how we are all different, yet the same.


WHERE ARE YOU FROM? Virginia Beach, VA, USA.


WHAT DO YOU LIKE THE MOST ABOUT WHERE YOU LIVE?  Brooklyn, NY has many amazing opportunities to meet intriguing individuals.  Being around many creative people makes it easier to find those that are interested in what I do.  However, it also means there is much more competition.


DO THESE PICTURES REFLECT ANYTHING ABOUT HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT AMERICA? DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE FROM THESE IMAGES THAT YOU WANT TO SPEAK MORE ABOUT?  These images are my interpretation as to what makes up American culture.  My personal favorite is the image of the ballooners. I know that lots of projects criticize the United States, and my work isn't entirely free from that but with this image I want to stress the hope and sincerity behind the great things this country has done and what I hope it can do in the future.


HAVE YOU BEEN ABROAD? HOW DID THIS CHANGE HOW YOU FELT ABOUT AMERICA? WHAT'S DISTINCTLY AMERICAN ABOUT US? Sadly, I haven't spent much time abroad.  I have been to both Europe and Africa but only once.  This project was less about changing my ideal of the USA and more about me sharing this ideal with others.


DO YOU FEEL PATRIOTIC?   To a certain degree.  I think that often patriotism is associated negatively with nationalism, or worse conservatism.  I wish that wasn't the case because one can still be proud of their roots, culture and heritage without agreeing on the present day problems that are being caused by the government.


ARE YOU OPTIMISTIC OR PESSIMISTIC ABOUT THE FUTURE? This depends on my mood.  Right now pessimistic, but mostly because of the fate of the health insurance bill in the USA. [Interview is from January 21, 2010.]


WHAT DO YOU DO FOR A LIVING AND WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING ON?  I am a high school English teacher at an alternative high school for older students (17-21) who have had problems in their academic lives.  My current photo project involves myself traveling to every national park in the United States and photographing the people that visit them. See my blog:


WHY WERE YOU DRAWN TO PHOTOGRAPHY?  Initially I wanted to be a newspaper photographer.  I did that for a while with the hope of educating the public through my work.  With the current economy and the fate of newspapers up in the air I decided my work would be better served working with children.


WHEN AND HOW DID YOU START MAKING PHOTOS?  I took an elective intro course during my undergraduate education at Virginia Commonwealth University.  It felt right because I had always felt the desire to express myself visually but was never very successful at drawing.


WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE PHOTOGRAPHER OR DIRECTER AT THE MOMENT Larry Fink. Being in NYC I have the opportunity to work on party atmosphere photographs.  Fink is the master of this, therefore I am trying to figure out what makes his images pop, and how I can bring that energy to my work.


YOUR LAST TRIP?  I recently took a trip to the Outer Banks, North Carolina.  I visited a couple national seashores, the site of the lost Roanoke colony, and the site of the Wright brother's first flight.  All of this was part of my national parks project.


AND THE NEXT ONE? WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?  I'm heading to Toronto, Canada tomorrow.  I've had a passion for the last year to better understand Canadian culture.  My long-term hopes are to do a similar project in Canada to American Pastimes.  Before I attempt this I want to better understand the subtle differences between the two countries.












J. Alan Hamill is currently negotiating the real world, finishing his MA in English Education so he can get paid and take pictures at his leisure. His last name means pregnant in Arabic. View this work at