Arnaud Montagard

Book Review The Road Not Taken

© Arnaud Montagard

Captured over the course of several years, The Road Not Taken, the debut monograph by Arnaud Montagard, is a nostalgia-suffused ode to America.


─── by Josh Bright, December 16, 2021

Born in 1991, in Nancy, France, Montagard relocated to the US during his early twenties. Settling in Brooklyn, NY, he initially continued his studies in marketing, but shortly after, decided instead, to pursue his photographic interest vocationally.

Color photo by Arnaud Montagard, soda on diner table. From the Road Not Taken


The urge to travel America, to discover the essence of this vast and complicated land is one that has driven so many great artists throughout history, from the iconic authors of the beat-generation to some of photography’s most illustrious names.

Gripped by this same desire, Montagard, shortly after his arrival, began exploring his newly adopted homeland, traveling thousands of miles over the course of several years, and along the way, capturing a series of images that would eventually form this body of work.

Color photo by Arnaud Montagard, storefront. From the Road Not Taken
Color photo by Arnaud Montagard, vintage car. From the Road Not Taken
Color photo by Arnaud Montagard, sign. From the Road Not Taken


What immediately grips the imagination is the sense of nostalgia, a pervasive feeling that what you are viewing, are not present-day images but postcards from a bygone time.

What Montagard discovered on his journey was an America that he already knew, described, with great eloquence by photographic greats like William Eggleston and Stephen Shore; depicted in the films of the Coen Brothers and Wim Wenders, and the paintings of Edward Hopper.

Color photo by Arnaud Montagard, diner. From the Road Not Taken
Color photo by Arnaud Montagard, mustard and ketchup on pink diner table. From the Road Not Taken
Color photography by Arnaud Montagard, from The Road Not Taken


Subtle, simple, and utterly compelling, these images display an impressive apperception of light and profound regard for color. Combined with clever framing, they display a rare perceptivity that renders the most seemingly mundane scenes thoroughly absorbing, a tribute to the influence of those aforementioned practitioners.

Color photography by Arnaud Montagard. Diner table, empty Coke bottle, from The Road Not Taken


It is instructive that during the course of the process, he swapped digital for medium-format film. A favorite of so many of his predecessors, it not only lends itself to a more ‘vintage’ aesthetic – the subtle tones reminiscent of those provided by the now-discontinued Kodachrome –  but is also one that requires considerable patience and sensitivity, thus engendering a slow, and deliberate pace that is befitting of the subject matter.

Color photography by Arnaud Montagard. rundown gas station. from The Road Not Taken


Though portrayals of this kind may be decrypted as a critique of modern America, a refutation of the narrative wherein the country is a beacon of innovation and modernity, in this case, such an assumption would clearly be erroneous.  

Montagard describes this project as ‘a declaration of love to the country’, and his adoration for his adopted homeland is clearly palpable throughout. It is a tribute to America as an idea; a billet-Deux to a prodigious and unwavering icon that continues to loom large in our collective subconscious.

 

‘The Road Not Taken’ is published by Setanta.

 

All images © Arnaud Montagard

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