American Roadside Culture


Over the past few years I have developed a body of photographic work that explores the manifestations of American culture as displayed along the roadsides of the country. Part of the motivation behind this project is simply to experience being on the road and seeing America. During my travels, being able to document elements of culture serves to record instances of time and place. The photographs also present something quite exquisite—the beauty of a particular location. While many of these settings are mundane in nature, they contain the potential for something grand. Being engaged by the sight of ordinary places, and viewing them as examples of American culture and history is what drives me to make photographs. Recognizing that potential and responding to it photographically is an educational and emotionally fulfilling experience. As part of the journey and the photographic process, I have gained some insight into what elements within the landscape are inherently American.

Making photographic observations about aspects of American culture forces me to consider the significance of the appeal of my subjects. America is my home. I am citizen of this country and therefore have a connection to its inhabitants. The way in which we mark the land out of utilitarian necessity or creativity has become increasingly familiar to me, and to document these markings through photography directly brings attention to how Americans use the land, and inhabit the country. Social commentary, documentation of a time and place, and responding to a thing of beauty are integral to the work. Developing an awareness of American culture contributes insight to familiar surroundings. However, there is no one answer to the question of what comprises American values. Some aspects of American culture are distinct to the country; others contain a universal appeal. To understand what is considered beautiful and essential within the culture gives a linkage to the work.

Inherent to making photographs is the obligation to ponder the experience, and reflect on historical memory. The various elements of Americana serve as evidence of the necessities of the way of life, cultural experience, and the different perceptions held by the American people. By definition, Americana is representative of things from or about the United States. My photographs question ideas that are often considered to be unwavering fact. However, I offer this body of work to layered interpretations. History, knowledge and experience affect perception, and in some cases, the imagery takes advantage of a visual irony that might otherwise go unnoticed. The continuing thread of observing America brings the work together to form a complete statement on the subject of Americana and my response to it.