“My dad was working in mines in Alabama and I was due to go over with my mum and be born there, but I was a few weeks premature," Thompson explains. "For the first few years of my life I was a toddler in Alabama, so on some psycho-geographical level there's a Southern vibe going on.”
He vowed to go back to Texas Hill Country after the blank film incident, and would return three years later to "attempt a photographic odyssey” – then again in 2007 to complete it. Now, two decades since that wedding, a number of Thompson's pictures are presented in his self-published photobook When in the Lone Star State – a wide spanning exploration of local life during the George W. Bush years (Texas was then home to the former president's second home, the 'Western Whitehouse').
“It's unlike anything I’ve ever photographed,” he says. “If you think of America – Texas is like, they’ve got America and distilled it down in a pot. It’s this sort of weird, meta, hyper-America.”
Part of the attraction stemmed from a longstanding obsession with American cinema. “Everything was so completely different, but at the same time familiar to me,” he says. “The funny thing is I did try to dress a bit Texan, but it didn’t work out because I was shopping in Topman, so I looked a bit like Marty McFly in Back to the Future Part III when Dr. Brown dresses him up as a cowboy.”
The pictures are an examination of rural America, but also the particularities of Texas. There’s an only-in-USA biker church among the photographs, and patriotism is on full display – as is racism. One shot is taken inside a bedroom decorated with confederate flag sheets and a portrait of Robert E. Lee. Another features a pick-up truck covered in handmade signs reading: “ROME WAS DISTROYED [SIC] BY LIBERALS, ILLEGAL ALIENS, AND TERRORISTS” and “NO AMNESTY FOR ILLEGALS."