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Addison Will ponders the meaning of it all

Photographer Addison Will, 35, seems physically unable to make a photograph that isn't — for him, at least — stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey with a tangy profusion of social commentary.

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The Georgia State University graduate student's work can be kitschy and artificial, or sober and naturalistic.

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But Will insists that it mean something.

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In his "American Flowers" series, he placed plastic daisies and lilies against skies the color of sickeningly sweet tropical drinks. The photographs are smart-alecky, ironic eye candy.

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But for Will they are also symbolic. "American Flowers" represents a country founded on perky denial, where the fake and beautiful is revered above that frumpy wallflower called truth.

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In his next body of work, "The Baby Series," Will put himself under the hot light. The project's gestation coincided with his wife's slow-cookin' of their child, a nine-month process that offered plenty of food for thought. Inspired by the self-portraiture of photographers like Cindy Sherman and Tina Barney, Will snapped photos of himself with a stunned expression on his face at baby showers, in the obstetrician's office and holding his fragile pink newborn. The series beautifully evoked the sense of being a spectator of one's own reality.

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And for a society used to anxious, neurotic, self-critical mothers, the work showed a promising shift in how men looked at their essential part in the domestic drama.

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In his most recent work, "Drive By," Will records a more epic, national neurosis expressed in our car culture.

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His psychologically dark auto-portraits capture a cross-section of people seated in their cars and engulfed in a metaphorical darkness. All gaze through windshields and out passenger door windows with expressions ranging from plaintive to vaguely anxious.

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To Will, the images reflect a larger problem in our society, a kind of glazed ennui and political passivity that extends from the most recent presidential election to the Iraq War.

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"Are we just sort of driving by and not really paying attention to what is happening in the world?" asks Will.

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Will is currently fascinated by NASCAR, the grit and gasoline pastime that has blown up into a cultural phenomenon.

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Time will tell what it means.

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Next Wave is an occasional feature spotlighting emerging artists in Atlanta.



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