Ramak Fazel was born in Iran in 1965, but moved to Indiana when he was 2 months old. He graduated from Purdue University and later moved to New York to study graphic design and photography, assisting with notable photographers such as Mark Seliger and Bruce Davidson.
In the summer of 2006, Fazel embarked on a 17,345-mile odyssey to every United States capitol. His mission was to photograph each state capitol and to construct a 10″x14″ postcard in each city using stamps from his childhood collection. He mailed these cards to himself at his next destination, the postage providing his medium as well as payment. The postcard from New York to Pennsylvania had 11-cent stamps arranged in the shape of twin towers, one toppling over as a commercial aviation stamp pierced the other.
Fazel faced obstacles along the way, being mirandized and detained at one point. He believes he was placed on a “list” after telling an airline passenger about his artistic endeavor. Recalling he had a beard at the time, Fazel believes the passenger photographed him asleep and gave his image to TSA. After being questioned by a member of Maryland Joint Terrorism Task Force with the F.B.I., Fazel consulted his lawyer before moving on. Facing increased security at each capitol entrance, Fazel included this element of post-9/11 anxiety in his photographs, showing yellow caution lines and police security.
“49 State Capitols” is currently showing at the Storefront for Art and Architecture in SoHo until March 8th. (Entirely self-funded, Fazel ran out of money before Alaska). The exhibition includes the postcards, photographs, and ephemera from his 78- day trip. Having only wanted to “see up close the country you call home,” Fazel’s patriotic road trip recalls the interstate culture of post-Eisenhower America, but his journey unfolded in a way that could only have taken place in the contemporary atmosphere of “Homeland Security”.