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“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

Along the backroads of America are instances of human efforts serving as reminders that along today’s roadsides there are opportunities to pause, reflect and wonder about the people who settled once empty lands and the vibrant communities that were once part of the roadside

A look at some of the black and white infrared images coming out of digital processing. Images are from the recent road trip along Route 66, time in New Mexico and back through Mississippi

My friend Geoff Livingston, who was featured here in a photography showcase, has a podcast (also available as video) called the “Show me podcast” where he chats with folks about iconic photos and why they work (or not).

We caught up to talk about Robert Frank’s book, The Americans.  And then we talked about the Roadside America project, Infrared photography and some of the thoughts behind PhotoNexus (at the 27 minute point) which I am organizing in Santa Fe, July 26 & 27.

Hope you can find the time to check out the podcast…and yes, a saxophone walks through it.

Roadside America

“As we travel through our busy lives we are often unaware of the history of the landscape that surrounds us. We speed along interstate highways that avoid communities; we fly across the country oblivious to the land, people and their places below.

Over time, human-built structures breakdown as communities change. They are abandoned and neglected.  Deterioration occurs as nature works slowly and silently to reclaim her place in the landscape.  However, the evidence of those past human endeavors melds with the natural elements creating its’ own beauty – a mystical reminder that the past persists, even just as relics of time gone by.

These reminders of the past are beacons to the endeavors and lives of people; previous generations who transformed the landscape to build a life. The backroads of America retain instances of human efforts to tame the land, make a living and build communities.  These reminders along today’s empty roadsides are opportunities to pause, reflect and wonder about the people who settled once empty lands. The stories and memories are gone. The only evidence is left in the landscape. There are no ghosts to tell us more.

It begs the question: when today’s human landscape crumbles, what will remain of our presence among the landscapes.  What palette will we leave behind?

For the black and white infrared images, the Roadside America images change our perception of a scene.  We are offered the opportunity to explore the dream-like world of the forgotten past through the unseen light revealed by infrared as it is revealed by the camera.”

The Galleries: Here is the link to the Roadside America Color Gallery and the Black and White Infrared Gallery.  

Interested in other Imagery? If you see some images and wonder if there are others like it, just hit the “contact me” page.  There are lots more images where these came from.  It’s always good to hear from you and learn more about what your interests are.

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BinhammerPhotographs, Roadside America, machineryBinhammerPhotographs, Roadside America

a weekend trip with my good friend and fellow photographer, Geoff Livingston, hiking to McAfee Knob and then doing a little shooting along the Blue Ridge Parkway