Michael Schmelling: Land Line
In the winter of 2007, photographer Michael Schmelling--known for his previous books Shut Up Truth and The Plan--photographed the USA National Memory Championships in New York City. Roughly 100 competitors gathered in a modest conference hall in the Con Edison building to compete in a series of mnemonic tests. Schmelling's photographs from that day are primarily of the competitors, all intensely engaged in recalling and reciting lists of information. Schmelling returned to the championships in 2008, photographing many of the same competitors as the year before. Building a book of short, interrelated stories, Schmelling has combined these images of mnemonists with a series of similar, overlapping narratives. Traveling through a North American landscape of neutral interiors, the viewer of Land Line encounters an array of subjects in the midst of thinking, forgetting, questioning and interpreting. Photographs of professional mnemonists, teenagers in an algorithmic code competition, entrepreneurs, a Hollywood actor, prisoners and English language students dressed up as historical figures coalesce into a larger narrative about cognition, memory and information.