Midwest Photographers Project: Paul D’Amato

About the Exhibition

Paul D’Amato, “In the company of men: photographs of men’s social clubs”

In this series D’Amato documents a selection of working class American men’s social clubs: cribbage players in the Woodfords Club in Portland, Maine; the “L” Street Bath House in South Boston; and the American Legion in Malden, Massachusetts.

During his visit to America in the early 19th century, men’s civic associations struck French historian Alexis de Tocqueville as an integral and important aspect of American life that mirrored the philosophical basis of social cohesion in the fledgling democracy. D’Amato’s pictures capture what de Tocqueville witnessed nearly 200 years ago—men gathered together in semi-formal but regular meetings to discuss politics and everyday issues.

In 1995 Professor Robert Putnam observed in his article “Bowling Alone” that American membership and participation in organized social institutions plummeted at the end of the 20th century, perhaps signaling a disintegration of civic life in this country. D’Amato’s photographs examine this possibility in their representation of the twilight hour of these once defining American institutions. His pictures portray elderly men engaged in activities that have been part of their lives since they were young. But very few younger members participate to assure the future of the clubs’ traditions.

-Natasha Egan, Associate Director