The dual messages of “America first” and “Americanism” can be found not only at the forefront of current political movements, but in the pages of literature and education taught at camps and clubs across the United States. Here, in this microcosm of a changing nation, youth straddle the vulnerability of adolescence and simultaneous stripping of individuality. In these settings, around 400,000 American youth are taught annually, often with military subtext, what it means to be an American. Photographed in twelve different states across a divided country, Beckon Us From Home is an ongoing photography project investigating the ideology of patriotism.

This work examines themes surrounding the interplay of statehood and adolescent identity, looking at topics such as the anxiety surrounding high school shootings, the role of social media and empathy, and the impact of coming of age in a polarized nation. The aim is to open dialogue around the nuanced and complicated ideas instilled in future generations of Americans. How are young people responding to our contemporary society, with all of its changes in belief systems?

The aim of this work is to present a spectrum of views that contribute to a uniquely American narrative of patriotic ideology, but also to offer counter-narratives that expand on the many contradictions that range diversely across the country. Lifting the common and overused words such as “patriotism” and “nationalism,” we find a large theater of contributing characters and storylines: fear, indoctrination, economics, religion, motivation.

Texts and Reviews:
Winner of the World Press Photo Long-Term Project category, 2019
Stephen Frailey, Interview in Dear Dave Magazine, 2020
Laurence Butet-Roch, Magenta Foundation, 2019
James Estrin, New York Times LENS, 2018
Libby Peterson, Artsy, 2018
TOPIC Magazine, 2018
Rebecca Onion, Virginia Quarterly Review, 2018
Simon Shuster, TIME Lightbox, 2016
The Guardian, 2017
Alex Scott, ABC, 2016
Winner of the Social Documentary Network Grant, 2017
Award of Excellence for the POYi, Issue Reporting Story, 2017
Ryan Bell, Columbia Journalism Review, 2017
Stephen Frailey, Interview in Dear Dave Magazine, 2020

Beckon Us From Home was photographed while Sarah Blesener was a student in the Documentary Practice and Visual Journalism course at the International Center of Photography, completed with the support of the Alexia Foundation, the CatchLight Fellowship.

Beckon Us From Home was exhibited at Photoville in NYC, Anastasia Photo Gallery in NYC, IPP 2017, Fondo Malerba per la Fotografia in Italy, Zimmerli Art Museum in New Jersey, the VII International Meeting of Acampa for Peace and the Right to Refuge in Spain, IMP Festival in Italy, Biennale della Fotografia Femminile in Italy, and Castelnuovo Fotografia Festival in Italy.