After earning his MA in the UK , Tag Christof enrolled in architecture school in LA but was soon dissuaded from the career path by architect friends. “So I suppose I assuage my failed dream by photographing buildings,” he says. “Failed dream” might be a harsh phrase. Tag now works as an art director and editor in Richmond, VA, in addition to satisfying his interest in both architecture and photography through an ongoing project called America Is Dead.
Many of the images were last year, when Tag took a road trip through the South in a ’73 Ponitac he purchased on eBay for a few hundred bucks. The car, which he affectionately named Maude, took him from San Francisco to New Mexico, North Carolina, Tennessee, and back again. While on the road, he photographed shopping malls, motels, churches, factories, diners, and the like. He sought to document “the lofty, somewhat idealistic stuff from before everything was hyper commodified and identical from coast to coast,” a la Victor Gruen and Denise Scott-Brown/Robert Venturi.
Architectural typologies such as those found in Christof’s images are especially prevalent in the suburban South, where space is abundant and outdated structures are quickly and easily abandoned for new ones. But Tag reminds us that such outdated structures are not worth abandoning completely, as they chronicle a history of 20th century American architecture—a history is that quickly deteriorating. The photographs are visually striking, yes, but the patent emptiness and neglect expertly captured within offers up a narrative about a system of values in which architecture follows economic currents.
Tag protests, “I think it might be America’s most important architectural patrimony, and it is both totally ignored and regularly bulldozed.”
All images courtesy of Tag Christof.