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The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip

Jepson Center May 25, 2018 - September 3, 2018

I began to understand that the car window was the frame, and that in some way the car itself was the camera with me inside it, and that the world was scrolling by with a constantly changing image on the screen. All I had to do was raise the camera and blink to make a photograph.
—Joel Meyerowitz

The road trip is an enduring symbol in American culture. Ever since cars became widely available, the road stretching over the horizon has represented a sense of possibility and freedom, discovery and escape—a place to get lost and find yourself in the process. The American road trip has appeared prominently in literature, music, and movies, but it has had an especially powerful influence on photography. As photographers have embarked on trips across the United States with the express purpose of making work, they have created some of the most important photographs in the history of the medium.

The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip explores the photographic road trip as a genre. It traces the rise of road culture in America and looks at photographers on the move across the country and across the century, from the early 1900s to present day. Presented chronologically, the exhibition considers nineteen photographers for whom the American road was muse.

Beginning with Robert Frank’s seminal series The Americans (1958), and including such renowned work as Garry Winogrand’s 1964, Joel Sternfeld’s American Prospects, William Eggleston’s Los Alamos, and Justine Kurland’s Highway Kind, the featured artists and road trips represent the evolution of American car culture, the idea of the open road, and how photographers embraced the subject of America in order reflect on place, time, and self.

 

Exhibition organized by Aperture Foundation, New York.
David Campany and Denise Wolff, curators.

The presentation of this exhibition at Telfair Museums is curated by Erin Dunn, Assistant Curator.

This project is supported, in part, by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. To find out more about how NEA grants impact individuals and communities, visit www.arts.gov.

 

Top right: Ed Ruscha, Phillips 66, Flagstaff, Arizona, 1962, Gelatin silver print © Ed Ruscha, Courtesy of the artist.
Bottom right: Joel Meyerowitz, Florida, 1970, Archival pigment print © Joel Meyerowitz, Courtesy of the artist and Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York.