In patriotic camps and clubs around the United States, roughly 400,000 American children are taught annually, often with military subtext, what it means to be an American. Serving children as young as eight years old, these camps range in specialization from Young Marines to training future border patrol agents.

Documentary photographer Sarah Blesener’s ongoing work examines the interplay of religion, love of country, and military-style training in the teaching of “new Americanism” among youth across the United States. From 2017 to 2019, Blesener photographed patriotic clubs and camps in twelve states to discover this renewed embrace of the centuries-old theme of American exceptionalism and manifest destiny. Here, in this microcosm of a changing nation, youth straddle the vulnerability of adolescence and the simultaneous stripping of individuality.

Blesener is a 2016 graduate of ICP’s One-Year Certificate program in Documentary Practice and Visual Journalism.

Gallery Hours

Tuesday–Friday | Visit by 3 PM tour only
Saturday | 11 AM–5 PM | Tours at 12 and 3 PM
Sunday–Monday | Closed


Image: Sarah Blesener, Hanover, Pennsylvania, from the series Beckon Us from Home. © Sarah Blesener, Courtesy Anastasia Photo, New York