Beyond the glowing green and red lights, past the shimmering silvery tinsel, and around the fragrant pine boughs, another Christmas lingers; a Christmas of contradictions. Christmas is complex and, at times, uncomfortable. It’s awkward and sometimes bleak. But it is also sincere and celebratory, colorful and creative. This is the Christmas of Texas and Arizona, seen in the latest chapter of my photographic exploration of the biggest event on the American calendar.
I grew up in a secular home and, at times, felt like a Christmas outsider, never connected to the holiday’s religious importance or its more extreme cultural trappings. But in these photos, I become a Christmas insider, working to discover and reveal what holiday magic—or mania—compels so many to devote thousands of hours to hanging lights, carving and painting figurines, building miniature villages, converting their homes, yards, garages and cars into monuments of merriness.
Initially inspired by the absurdity of a five-story inflatable Santa who appeared to be guarding a tree lot, I have launched this survey of uniquely American Christmas traditions. Christmas in America is an unvarnished examination of the ways people mark the holiday’s meaning.
Jesse Rieser was born and raised in the midwestern United States, in the city of Springfield, Missouri. At Arizona State University, he majored in photography and art history, while attending the Herberger Institute of Art and Design.
He has been commissioned by the Arizona Lottery, AT&T, Coca-Cola, Disney, ESPN the Magazine, Ford Motor Company, INC. Magazine, NBA, New Mexico State Tourism, NFL, Procter & Gamble, Progressive Insurance, This American Life, Warner Brothers and Visa, among others
Rieser’s work has been honored by the Communication Arts Photography Annual, PDN Photo Annual, American Photography Annual, Photolucida’s Critical Mass Top 50, Center’s Review Santa Fe 100, Art Director’s Club Young Guns (Top 50 International Emerging Creative Under 30), and Luezer’s Archive (200 Best Ad Photographers Worldwide). Rieser was a recipient of the Magenta Foundation’s Flash Forward award in 2012.