The American Imagination: A Survey of Myths, Tall Tales and Legends in the United States visualizes a wide variety of American stories in 15 chapters, touching on all regions of the country.
America’s storytelling tradition is young but expansive, born out of a blending and cross-pollination of Native American civilizations and immigrant cultures. From tales of flying saucers that followed the detonation of the world’s first nuclear bomb, to myths of slaves growing resplendent black wings and flying away from lives of bondage, stories with fantastical elements contain potent truths. Often disguised as entertainment, our myths, tall tales, and legends are especially adept at addressing unspeakable pain, as well as holding the fears and aspirations of a time and place. These stories present a disarming, nonpartisan path from which to approach some of our nation’s most difficult questions.
Based on the premise that myths are sincere, the project dismantles and repurposes existing rules for storytelling in a quest for larger truth. In The American Imagination, the past, present, and future are deliberately collapsed to reveal how stories endure across generations. Fiction is presented alongside journalistic reportage and academic analysis in an open-ended exploration of the fluid nature of truth.
The overarching goal of The American Imagination is to celebrate our nation’s vibrant diversity across time and serve as a reminder that our stories are very much alive, a form of cultural DNA passed from one generation to the next. Stories show us who we have been, who we are now, and who we are becoming.
This is a long-term in-progress project, slated for completion in 2026/2027. The images included in this gallery are intended as a broad overview. To see the project in full, please visit the dedicated website at www.americanimagination.com.