A Visual Ode to the American Dream

3 minute read

Documentary photographer Andrew Moore and pilot Doug Dean have spent the last 10 years flying over the 100th Meridian, which bisects the U.S. right down the middle from North to South. Often, as they embark on their plane, they don’t know what they’re looking for. But this time, as they were flying over the plains of Nebraska, they had a specific goal in mind: to find Uncle Teed, a 93-year-old sheep herder who has been living alone, off the grid, without hot water for the last 25 years.

Moore had heard about the man after an acquaintance brought him to a local farmhouse dinner party, where guests compared farm-related scars and mangled limbs.

Eventually finding Uncle Teed’s home from the air was only the beginning of their pursuit. They learned later from his sister that he was a cranky old man with a shotgun in the kitchen. Then they made contact with his nephew who passed along their interest to meet. When Uncle Teed, short for Teedie, finally invited them over, they landed their plane in his backyard.

The resulting portrait is just one of the many photographs in Moore’s book Dirt Meridian that tell the story of America’s seemingly boundless landscape.

For this week’s cover story, “240 Things to Celebrate About America Right Now,” TIME enlisted Moore to expand on his work and photography six different locations across the country: the Atchafalaya Swamp in Louisiana, the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Ted Turner’s bison ranch in Montana, Casino Pier amusement park at the Jersey Shore and the Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado.

“I love photographing in America because, for me, it’s like playing on the home field,” says Moore. “It’s familiar but it’s also always new. It’s my culture and at the same time, I’m always seeing new facets to it.”

Moore watched below, from the cockpit of the low-flying plane, endless vistas, sand-worn farmhouses and herds of galloping antelope and wrestled with how to portray this subject. “One of the great challenges is to tell a story about a place people think of as a blank space and let the land tell the story rather than well known cliches,” says Moore.

Despite meticulous compositions and enchanting natural light, Moore’s color work often honors the legacy of something that has passed, and some of these photographs show signs of wear and tear but, he says, they are not intended to be viewed as ugly or reductive. He sees beauty in the complexity of life.

“Like an old person’s face,” says Moore, possibly referring to Uncle Teed’s. “It’s just a measure of time.”

Andrew Moore is represented by Yancey Richardson Gallery in NYC and Jackson Fine Art in Atlanta and will exhibit his “Dirt Meridian” work at the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, opening October 9th, 2016.

Natalie Matutschovsky and Myles Little, who edited this photo essay, are Senior Photo Editors at TIME.

Michael Bucher is a contributor at TIME LightBox.

William Shakespeare’s play “Love’s Labor’s Lost” is performed at Idaho Shakespeare Festival in Boise, ID on Sunday, June 12, 2016.Andrew Moore for TIME
Bison are photographed on Ted Turner’s Flying D Ranch outside Bozeman, MT on Tuesday, June 14, 2016.Andrew Moore for TIME
The Atchafalaya Basin, or Atchafalaya Swamp, is the largest wetland and swamp in the United States, photographed on June 9, 2016. Andrew Moore for TIME
Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, CO photographed June 19, 2016 during a Bob Dylan and Mavis Staples Concert. It is celbrating it’s 75th Anniversary this year. Andrew Moore for TIME
Sun Through Rain. Dawes County, Nebraska, 2013.Andrew Moore
Pronghorn Antelope. Niobrara County, Wyoming, 2013.Andrew Moore
Eva Jerde. Harding County, South Dakota, 2014.Andrew Moore
Homesteaders' Tree. Cherry County, Nebraska, 2011.Andrew Moore
Gas Flare. Mckenzie County, North Dakota, 2014. Andrew Moore
Round Up No. 2. McKenzie County, North Dakota, 2005. Andrew Moore
Fawn and Snowball. Cherry County, Nebraska, 2006.Andrew Moore
Roughneck Housing. McKenzie County, North Dakota, 2013. Andrew Moore
Broken Pivot. Cherry County, Nebraska, 2013.Andrew Moore
Dalton Market. Cheyenne County, Nebraska, 2013. Andrew Moore
Uncle Teed. Sioux County, Nebraska, 2013.Andrew Moore
Along The Bad River. Haakon County, South Dakota, 2014. Andrew Moore
Bassett Livestock Auction. Rock County, Nebraska, 2006. Andrew Moore
Abbott Family At The Big House. Cherry County, Nebraska, 2012.Andrew Moore
Along The Little Missouri. McKenzie County, North Dakota, 2013.Andrew Moore
Burnt Peak on the Pine Ridge. Dawes County, Nebraska, 2013.Andrew Moore
Vernon Ashley. Hughes County, South Dakota, 2014.Andrew Moore
Sandhills Blizzard. Cherry County, Nebraska, 2013.Andrew Moore
Buckboard Wagon. Sheridan County, Nebraska, 2013.Andrew Moore
School District 123. Cherry County, Nebraska, 2012.Andrew Moore
Jordan Budd. Sheridan County, Nebraska, 2013. Andrew Moore
Cash Meier Barn. Shadbolt Ranch, Cherry County, Nebraska, 2012.Andrew Moore
Art Gallery At The Dorsey Mansion. Union County, New Mexico, 2014.Andrew Moore
Music Studio. Gray County, Texas, 2014.Andrew Moore
The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) is a Smithsonian Institution museum established in 2003. The museum’s building, designed by David Adjaye, is currently under construction on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.. The museum says it will open its doors September 24, 2016. Photographed Thursday June 9, 2016.Andrew Moore for TIME
The casino pier amusement park is photographed from the air on Saturday, June 18, 2016 in Seaside Heights, NJ. Casino Pier is an amusement park situated on a pier, it was partially destroyed by Hurricane Sandy but has since reopened.Andrew Moore for TIME
Winter Thicket. Greenwood, Mississippi, 2012Andrew Moore
Dubbs Office. Tunica, Mississippi, 2014Andrew Moore
Church Drum Kit. Clarksdale, Mississippi, 2012Andrew Moore
Old Highway 61. Tunica, Mississippi, 2014Andrew Moore
Mrs. Clara Hornsby. Augusta, Georgia, 2014Andrew Moore

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