Gun Culture Is Apple Pie Americana with Donald Bowers Photography

July 2, 2014

By Barbara Goldman

© Donald Bowers

 Guns, bullets and picnics.

New York City-based Donald Bowers is a very energetic advertising photographer who loves to present products and portraits with a different perspective.  His unique look in product and portrait photography always brings a sense of fun and unpredictability.  You are never quite sure what take he will have on a project, but it is always visually striking.

Bowers likes to play with his audience and incorporates a personal side into work with uncanny  subjects and juxtapositions.  His interests span all kinds of subcultures.  The gun subculture in the United States today, terrifying to so many, is particularly intriguing and fascinating to him.  Many are divided on the gun issue and it tends to subside and take cover until another mass killing arises.  Unfortunately, national  gun violence has become a routine occurrence. Based on constitutional rights and gun-related hobbies as hunting, guns have become so deeply engrained in our culture that even though there is a strong undertone of entitlement many are now facing difficult questions with so many mass killings that have come to the surface and dominate the conversation.  Approximately 40% of all U/S. homes have guns and  as much as 81% of the country says that gun control will be an important issue when voting for Congressional candidates. But the attitude of Americans is changing with the increase in violence so that approximately 57% percent of Americans now say there needs to be restrictions as better background checks or even bans on guns. The Gun Control debate centers on whether our existing gun laws are sufficient or whether more gun laws are needed.

“Our ownership of these types of things fascinates me as we are consumers here in America, “says Bowers.  His other current fascination is 1940s Americana, particularly WW2 propaganda posters, American, German and Russian. Bowers conceived of a project where he could combine both interests.  His photos of such classic Americana products as hotdogs, chips and red and white-checkered table napkins all have a certain timelessness,   As he has observed bullet shells don’t change much either.

 © Donald Bowers/ Potato chips and bullets.

The hotdog, chips and classic Americana checked-picnic napkin he used in the shot help in deriving a certain timelessness, at least within the past 80 years or so. Bullet shells don’t change much either, frozen in time.

Bowers challenged himself to take a relevant news story as gun control, appearing  daily in the news now because of so many mass murders happening across the country, along with his interest in war propaganda posters and artwork to create a rather startling effect with the combination. Things we consider so homey and comforting suddenly are now cold and sinister looking. Chips and hot dogs and picnic surroundings, so innocent and Americana, are now alarming as they surround and swaddle cold-looking bullets.

With over 12 years of professional experience, Bowers is currently an independent photographer with Getty Images and works with a wide variety of clients including Cohn & Wolfe, Grey Advertising, CNN, Heineken, Duane Reade, Paper Magazine, L.D. PR Travel and Visit Scotland. Bowers also was a Photo Serve Top 10 pick for May 2014, and we look forward to his thought- provoking imagery and updates. You can see more work at his site and stay tuned for more of  Bowers’ projects  on