Installation view of Jane's Earthquake Kit and Jeff's Go Bag in the exhibition L.A.Woman at Pierce College, 2015

Bug Out Bag:  The Commodification of American Fear

Hurricanes.  Earthquakes.  Superstorms.  War.  Martial Law.  The Rapture.  The Zombie Apocalypse. The Bug Out Bag is the most basic piece of gear for disaster preparedness.  It is usually a backpack or an easy to carry duffel bag containing the essentials needed to sustain life for 72 hours, or to possibly begin a new civilization.  Since 2014 I have been traveling across America and photographing the disaster equipment of the people I meet along the way.  Bug Out Bag is a portrait of Twenty-First Century Americans and it reveals their most basic needs and fears in the face of geopolitical and environmental change.  Post-9/11 America has become a world of radical self-reliance, where preparedness is a necessity and for some it is a philosophy of life.  The growing prepper population has created online communities that focus on safety and preparedness and prepper related retail has increased dramatically in the past decade.  The people I meet are liberal and conservative, atheist and born again. Most are community minded, while others are fiercely independent, and some are  are reclusive and paranoid.  Independence is a fundamental principle when describing the American character.  We praise the self reliant man and credit him for the shining city upon the hill, but today our fears are running rampant.  The new self-reliant American no longer experiences transcendence in nature as Thoreau once did, but instead, escapes to nature to hoard and protect property.  Prepping has become a capitalist enterprise, banking on our fears and desires for stability in the face of global change.


Click on any image below to view as a slideshow