“Our country is made for long trips”
American photographer Stephen Shore
Road trips are part of the fabric of America. They inform, inspire and invigorate.
The American road trip has long been a signature adventure for families. There must be thousands and thousands of family snapshots from summer vacations. The open road and the vast land have also engaged artists. Road trips are prominent in literature, with writings by Steinbeck and Kerouac for example, as well as in music, movies and photography. The road trip is part of our culture.
Photography captures and shares perspectives of the landscapes, our communities and the roadside signs and symbols of American life. Photographers, including Walker Evans and Edward Weston, immortalized their travels through the United States in the 1930s and 1940s. In the 1950s America’s culture was documented in the famous book, The Americans, by Robert Frank (among my personal favorites). In the 1970s Stephen Shore undertook his month long adventure resulting in the famous “American Surfaces” series. In 2014, David Campany’s book and traveling exhibit, The Open Road: Photography & the American Road Trip explored the photographic road trip as a genre of its own. He notes:
“the road trip confirmed our fascination, our horror,
our sense of possibility, of the sublime and the banal.
And forced us to confront the clichés in our heads and the clichés out there. I think that’s why most photographers go on the road.”
Road trips are what led to my Roadside America project which I continue to fine tune and evolve. These trips have:
- explored the magnificent geography and desolation of West Texas;
- made for peaceful mornings with the light of the sun and the sound of the ocean on the Outer Banks and the Eastern Shore;
- chased the blues and the difficult history of the Mississippi Delta;
- brought to life the awe across the western states, in the Rockies, Yellowstone and the Tetons;
- made me think about the first pioneers (and what we now call “fly over country”) as I travel around the Great Smokies and the Blue Ridge Mountains while listening to Bluegrass music; and,
- my 2018 Americana Road Trip featured “another time” along Route 66, while also following parts of the trail of civil rights, experiencing the gut wrenching Oklahoma memorial and listening to the vibrant roots of country, rock and roll, blues and soul music. You can also find more from the 2019 trip here and here