Inside the Swiss photographer’s new photo book, which was almost 30 years in the making.
A cloud-filled sky hangs low over an abandoned gas station. A garish red billboard advertises a place called Alien Bar & Grill to resting truck drivers. A classic car idles on an otherwise empty parking lot. This is Tom Haller’s America, as seen in his latest publication, Nuggets: American Landscapes.
It was in the early ’90s that the Zürich-based photographer visited the US for the first time and was blown away by “the uniqueness” of what he saw. Since then he’s taken many road trips throughout the country, first with friends, and then later, as his career as an editorial and reportage photographer took off, for work. Despite being taken over a 30-year-timespan, what links these analog photographs is Haller’s desire to turn off the freeway and see where the side roads take him. The result is that many of the places featured in the book—Page, Douglas, Bonneville, Inyokern—may be unfamiliar even to American audiences.
“There are interesting stories in many of these photographs, but their quality does not lie in illustrations,” writes the author Christian Seiler in the publication’s opening essay. Instead, if the images do tell a story about America, it’s through the emotions that Haller’s gaze evokes from the viewer—melancholy, sadness, and loneliness; but also humor and irony.
The book’s title refers to photographic “nuggets,” little pieces of reality captured by Haller’s 80-millimeter lens, which he views as documentary in nature: “I don’t interfere in the image,” he says, “I just capture what I see.”