Marie Tomanova’s debut monograph Young American celebrates an idea of an “America” still rife with dreams and possibilities, hope and freedom. As a Czech immigrant struggling in a new environment to belong, to come to terms with her repressive past and her uncertain future, the portraits taken between 2015 and 2018 in New York City visualize an America in which individuality is valued as uniqueness and not judged as a lack of sameness.
Young American resonates with directness, presence, and the ability to see deeply an individual with whom we can somehow identify. It is about optimism, youth, and the connection between people—the humanness that is essential to us all. To look deeply at Tomanova’s portraits and to see them looking deeply back at you is the heart of this work. Young American asserts the hope for a better future as an antidote to an oppressive and intolerant social and political situation in the United States and, perhaps, globally. Young American points not only to youth empowerment and the potent voice and presence that has emerged with it, but also to the welcome disintegration of any sort of set idea about identity. One could contextualize Tomanova’s Young American in the increasingly important and powerful voice of youth culture that is in the process of vitally reshaping gender, society, culture, and igniting a much-needed ideological revolution.
As photographer Ryan McGinley writes in his introduction to Young American, “This is a future free of gender binaries and stale old definitions of beauty. In Marie’s world people can just simply be. I wish all of America’s youth culture looked like Marie’s photos of Downtown, diverse and inclusive.