Jesse Rieser: Critical Mass 50

Young Guns 9 winner Jesse Rieser’s photo project, “Christmas In America: Happy Birthday, Jesus,” was just selected for this year’s Critical Mass 50. Critical Mass is an annual international project competition juried by the top 200 curators, gallery owners, publishers, and editors in the fine art photographic community. You can view all of the photographs from Jesse’s series and check out the other winners here.

About “Christmas In America: Happy Birthday, Jesus”: Beyond the glowing green and red lights, past the shimmering silvery tinsel, around the fragrant pine boughs, another Christmas lingers, a Christmas of contradictions. This Christmas is complex and at times, uncomfortable. It’s awkward and sometimes bleak. But it is also sincere and celebratory, colorful and creative. This is the Christmas I capture in this first chapter of a photographic exploration of the biggest event on the American calendar. I grew up in a secular home and at times felt like a Christmas outsider, never connected to the holiday’s religious importance, or its more extreme cultural trappings. But in these photos, I become a Christmas insider, working to discover and reveal what holiday magic, or mania, compels so many to devote thousands of hours to hanging lights, to carving and painting figurines, to building miniature villages, to converting their homes, yards, garages and cars into monuments to merriness. Initially inspired by the absurdity of a five story inflatable Santa who appeared to be guarding a tree lot, I have launched this survey of uniquely American Christmas traditions. “Christmas in America” is an unvarnished examination of the ways people mark the holiday’s meaning. – Jesse Rieser

Follow Jesse @JesseRieser