As Good As Gold

By Sadie Andrew

Understanding film and its characteristics can be an interesting and reflective task, as ex-skateboarder-turned-photographer Jason Lee will have you know. His new book, In The Gold Dust Rush, offers solely black and white photographs taken in the past twenty years on his travels through America. But this book is not the only use of this as a title. Find out more in our piece, As Good As Gold.

Lee says that roaming with a camera allows for a more focused perspective, noticing the landscape differently; he says each of the photos hold a special place for him because of the experience he had making them. 

Black and white gives the photos a more quiet, isolated feeling, and put together in a beautiful book by Stanley Barker, allows us to enjoy and experience them alongside him.

The gold rush in America happened in the nineteenth century and created an era of optimism where any individual could become abundantly wealthy almost instantly. 

However, after 1850, much of the surface gold had disappeared, even as miners continued to arrive. When hydraulic mining was developed in the 1850’s this brought enormous profits but destroyed much of the region’s landscape: rivers were clogged with sediment, forests were ravaged to produce timber and eventually prices became inflated. 

It is these after-effects of the gold rush that Lee so sombrely captures in his work.

Interestingly, the famous alternative eighties band, the Cocteau Twins, have a song with the same name, including the lyrics ‘I weigh my life and it’s got me old fool gold// In the gold dust rush I can only genuflect.’

As with many of their songs, people have pondered the meaning, with some saying it is about going to church and genuflecting to an alter of fool’s gold, and some saying it is about thinking you are one thing and finding out you are another.

The band’s vocalist, Elisabeth Fraser, said that she has always struggled with writing lyrics and when something clicks, she will go with it, often coming out with words that have no meaning of which she will only make sense later.

Similarly to Lee, though, Fraser sees her creativity as inseparable from her emotions and sees her songs as an emotive, evocative experience which she takes us through.

On a lighter note, other things which have taken inspiration from this time in America’s history, is Foreign Object’s ale, In the Gold Dust Rush, describing it using the Cocteau Twins’ lyrics: ‘Weigh your life and genuflect in the rush’. Their silky New-American hoppy ale is made with citrus and stone fruit and gives it a gold shimmery colour, harking back to times in America where people gave their lives over to this precious metal.

If you enjoyed As Good as Gold, why not read Named By Film here.

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