The road trip is one of the great American photographic traditions. Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip, a new book published by Aperture, revisits the journeys of 18 influential photographers as they set out in search of weird, beautiful and unknown things to point their cameras at.
Picture: Stephen Shore, US 97, South of Klamath Falls, Oregon, July 21, 1973© Stephen Shore, Courtesy of the artist and 303 Gallery, New York.
It’s hard to imagine the evolution of American photography, even documentary photography in general, without the phenomenon of the road trip. It was the outings of those like Robert Frank and Garry Winogrand that helped spark a fascination with documenting everyday life in a spontaneous, unprompted way.
I like how Aperture organised this book. As opposed to constructing it like most survey books, with a plethora of images fitting certain themes but constantly bouncing around from artist to artist, Open Road focuses on a chronology of influential road trips, starting with Robert Frank’s seminal 1955 journey across America, and ending in the 21st century with younger photographers like Justine Kurland.
Inge Morath, Outside Memphis, Tennessee, 1960
© Inge Morath/Magnum Photos
Joel Meyerowitz, Florida, 1970
© Joel Meyerowitz, Courtesy of the artist and Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York
Bernard Plossu, Phoenix, 1980
© Bernard Plossu, Courtesy of the Artist and Eaton Fine Art, West Palm Beach, FL
Todd Hido, #6097, 2007
© Todd Hido, Courtesy the artist and Rose Gallery, Santa Monica, California
Justine Kurland, Spare Some Gas, 2010
© Justine Kurland, Courtesy Mitchell-Innes & Nash Gallery, New York
Taiyo Onorato & Nico Krebs, Broken Street Line, 2008
© Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs, Courtesy the artists and RaebervonStenglin, Zurich and Peter Lav, Copenhagen
These canonical projects are great to flip through, but it would have been great to see a section devoted to some of history’s lesser known photographers, or a wider swath of the current landscape of road trip photography. It’s one of those themes that is so universal, and so immune to the passage of time, that a broader reach seems called for.
Nonetheless, Open Road will fill your eyes with wonderfully varied visions of the American landscape. It’s a call for every photographer go explore with their own camera, whether it be across the entire country or just down the road. I particularly love the final pages that map the routs each photographer took on their adventures!