Photographer Maury Gortemiller Plays ‘Make Believe’ With Donald Trump’s ‘Art of the Deal’

Photographer Maury Gortemiller Plays ‘Make Believe’ With Donald Trump’s ‘Art of the Deal’ cover

“A little hyperbole never hurts,” Donald Trump wrote in his 1987 mega-bestseller The Art of the Deal, a book the former president calls his “second favorite” next to the Bible. “People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular,” Trump continued. “I call it truthful hyperbole.”

Maury Gortemiller calls it by another two-word name: Make Believe. The Atlanta artist’s recent photo book reinterprets lines of “cut-up” text from pages in Trump’s Art of the Deal, turning the Dadaist phrases into moody, subversive slices of Southern Americana. This year, Make Believe joins four landscape-based photo books as part of “Red Clay,” the inaugural issue of RADAR, a new photo and poetry series from indie publishers Fall Line Press. The artists and projects selected for the “Red Clay” collection, curated with guidance from Maury, center on the American South as a framework for the issue’s sweeping visual storytelling. “One place of long-standing fascination for me and many others is my own backyard of what was once called the ‘Deep South,’ says Bill Boling, founder of Fall Line Press, in an interview with FlakPhoto. “We all have an idea, if not an opinion or two, about the southeastern United States.”

In his new photo book, Atlanta artist Maury Gortemiller transforms the president’s mega-bestseller into moody, subversive slices of Southern Americana.
‘I Can No Longer Distinguish Between My Dreams and Vain Illusions’

While Trump is about as Southern as a goose-down parka, the president’s recent electoral shenanigans in Georgia impart Make Believe with an eerie, almost prophetic vision of Maury’s home state. “While Trump’s personality and reputation certainly form a considerable presence in the series, the images are not meant to refer specifically to the president or the present political climate,” Maury explains. “Rather, the work is, at times, intended to parody the braggadocio and surliness of the authorial voice. In other instances, images evoke human qualities that I identify as absent in the text, such as humility, a capacity for wonder, and a recognition of one’s shortcomings.”

For Trump, those shortcomings include a baffling lack of familiarity with his favorite book. In 2015, when asked to share a favorite Bible verse, the president repeatedly declined to answer. Maury, who grew up reading the Bible, could probably rattle off a dozen verses before Trump says “terrific.” Maury’s previous photo book, Do the Priest in Different Voices (2019), transforms the photographer’s Bible Belt upbringing into a dissonant coming-of-age story that centers on classic Southern tropes of memory, mythology, and family. “While I am ambivalent toward the old, established narratives, the semblance of the mythical in the mundane enthralls,” says Maury of Do the Priest, though his sentiment applies equally to the incongruous works in Make Believe.

Like all Maury’s work, Make Believe pokes holes in the ideology behind grand narratives, whether religious, patriotic, or somewhere in between. Maddeningly cryptic, Make Believe disavows the tyranny of nationalist rhetoric and the American Dream with a series of terrifying, transcendent, and often hilarious surrealist visions.

The semblance of the mythical in the mundane enthralls.” — Maury Gortemiller

‘I Was Ambitious at Night and Better With My Hands Than Most’
In his new photo book, Atlanta artist Maury Gortemiller transforms the president’s mega-bestseller into moody, subversive slices of Southern Americana.
‘I Always Assume That Women Do Not Tell the Truth’
‘I Saw Creation in the Wire Mesh of the Window’
In his new photo book, Atlanta artist Maury Gortemiller transforms the president’s mega-bestseller into moody, subversive slices of Southern Americana.
‘Good Security Eliminates Surprise’
In his new photo book, Atlanta artist Maury Gortemiller transforms the president’s mega-bestseller into moody, subversive slices of Southern Americana.
‘A Good Fire Will Destroy a Beautiful Apartment’
‘You Can Con the American People With a Smile’
‘The Beauty of Lawyers’ Gloves—I Often Dream of This’
‘I’d Be Better Off Fragmented’

Maury Gortemiller: Website | Instagram | Pre-order “Red Clay”

All photos published with permission of Maury Gortemiller; featured image: “In the Early Days I Stole Funeral Flowers and Gave Them to Exceptional Women.”

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Tags

Atlanta artist, color photography, contemporary photography, deep South, Donald Trump, landscape art, landscape photography, photo book, photography, The Art of the Deal, The South


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