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  Field Notes From
ZipUSA: Ames, Iowa




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On Assignment
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From Author
Hillel J. Hoffmann


On Assignment

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From Photographer
Scott Houston



In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Scott Houston
 

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ZipUSA: Ames, Iowa

Field Notes From Photographer
Scott Houston
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Being a witness to a sorority initiation rite was quite an experience. It’s a sacred and exotic American ritual of youth. The fancy-dress toga party that followed was also a great deal of fun. I was interested in the students’ costumes and the music they were listening to. One student took me into her room to hear some kind of hip-hop, electronica, and jungle sounds. She danced all over her room and then disappeared into the party. More students appeared in bath robes and eagerly told me where they were from, what they studied, and what they hoped to do after graduation. I remember thinking what great places universities are and how important learning is in all stages of life. So, I hung out with them a while, listening to some crazy music and enjoying the young excited spirit of it all.

On the morning of September 11, I was walking with my camera toward the Arch at Friely—a kind of hub of student traffic—when a young woman told me that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I went inside the dorm. And there it was live on television. I sat stunned with a couple of students in their room and watched the towers implode and fall.



Some of the students regularly played video games, so I went to see what all the fuss was about. I found myself in a room in front of a screen with controls in my hand, playing soccer for Arsenal in the English Premier Division. It was a highly sophisticated video game that simulated the reality of playing soccer, a thing I did throughout my childhood in Scotland. I was surprised to find the players up to date. I got to be a video soccer star, passing the ball to other soccer stars, playing against such teams as Manchester United, Chelsea, and Liverpool. I even played in a Scottish Cup final and scored a goal. My childhood dreams were coming true by new technologies. But when the game ended, the truth remained. I wasn’t scoring goals in famous British soccer stadiums. I was sitting in a dorm room in Ames, Iowa. I was there to photograph young Americans getting through dorm life, and I didn’t mind my reality in the least.





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