APRIL 30—DECEMBER 4, 2010
As a staff photographer for local newspaper in northern California in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Bill Owens found himself embedded in suburban California life. The lifestyle fascinated him and became an object of his photographic observations. “At first I suffered culture shock, “he wrote. “The people I met enjoy the life-style of the suburbs. They have realized the American Dream. They are proud to be home owners and to have achieved material success.” Owens’ photographs, published in book form as Suburbia in 1972, present a slyly subversive study of an inward-looking middle class, who in their own words accompanying the photographs were seemingly oblivious to the racial and cultural strife roiling America’s cities. Thirty years later, this penetrating piece is both critical and nostalgic. It explores the material evidence of prosperity and its enjoyment, while subtly drawing out the ironies of a consumer culture and the American Dream played out in suburban communities.