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Books: Charting America's Obsessions with Guns

By David Schonauer   Thursday March 18, 2021


Why are guns so deeply ingrained in American culture?

That is the question tackled by Italian photographer Gabriele Galimberti in his new book Ameriguns, out from Dewi Lewis. And as the British Journal of Photography noted recently, the subject is as complex as it is intriguing — especially, perhaps, for people from outside the US.

“Despite making up just five per cent of the world’s population, the US is home to more than half of the world’s firearms; twice as many as Yemen, three times as many as Uruguay, and ten times as many as Egypt,” noted BJP. “In the US, there are more guns than there are people, and more gun stores than there are pharmacies, Starbucks, and McDonald’s restaurants combined.”

Galimberti met his first American gun collector in 2018 in Kansas, while working on story about dinosaur fossils for National Geographic. He had a few days off, and was intrigued by a huge gun store he passed in the middle of nowhere. “I’m a curious person, so I started to speak with people,” Galimberti told BJP. “I was talking with this guy, and I asked him how many guns he had. He said, ‘probably more than 60.’” Galimberti asked if he could photograph them, and within an hour, he was in the man’s front room, surrounded by a collection of pistols, shotguns, and rifles.

Galimberti has worked on a number of longterm projects, often taking a topological approach to subjects, noted BJP. His series “Toy Stories” for instance, shows children with their favorite toys. After seeing the Kansas man’s collection of guns, Galimberti realized he had found a new subject matter to continue with this “visual formula.” Moving on to Montana for another National Geographic shoot, he visited a gun store and soon found himself in the home of another gun collector.

He eventually widened his research, joining Facebook groups for gun enthusiasts and reaching out to gun enthusiasts in the US. He eventually found 50 willing subject in 30 states and then spent two months traveling across the country to photograph them.

The result is a book that looks at everything from the history of the Second Amendment to Instagram influencers, who are increasingly being hired by gun companies to promote weapons, notes BJP. The book is split into four sections reflecting what Galimberti calls  “the four big values that keep Americans so attached to guns” — freedom, family, passion, and style.

“I asked my subjects what they were keeping in the house,” noted Galimberti at Fstop magazine, explaining his method. “Then, I arranged everything in an orderly and geometric way, as if each object was an integral part of the environment surrounding the subject.”

Galimberti tells BJP that it was surprise for him to learn that “the bias that many people have about gun lovers is not really true.”

 “It doesn’t matter if you are Democrat or Republican, it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white, rich or poor,” says Galimberti. “Guns are attached to the DNA of America.”

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