David Campany’s book “The Open Road: Photography & the American Road Trip” (Publisher: Aperture ISBN: 9781597112406) is the first book to explore the photographic road trip as a genre in its own right. When asked why the American open road is such an attraction for American and foreign photographers alike, Campany replied:
The myth of space and the space of myth”.
In this pithy reply, one can sense the beguiling draw of freedom that enticed so many to get behind a driving wheel with a small suitcase and several boxes of beer and Tri-X in the boot. As one who’s formative years included a diet of reading Kerouac, looking at Robert Frank photographs and listening to the Platters singing “The Great Pretender” and Dion singing “The Wanderer”, I was drawn to this book by what it itself promised: nostalgia.
An excellent book this, and one that I keep returning to. Perhaps its greatest asset is Campany’s choice and fine reproduction of photographs. We tour Robert Frank country, Ruscha, Winogrand, Eggleston, the “quiet” photographs of Stephen Shore, Friedlander, the expansiveness of Joel Sternfeld, and Alec Soth among others, not to mention one of my favourite photographers, Joel Meyerowitz. Omissions there doubtless are (Vanessa Winship for example), but this is understandable and in my opinion do not detract from the whole..
Campany’s selection is intelligent, not restricted to gas stations, telegraph poles and shopping malls. For example, Todd Hido’s aesthetic sense of space, and the diaristic photography of Ryan McGinley are given a chapter each.
Also interesting is the pivotal influence of Walker Evans, (all roads go back to him), although his photography is not featured as he did not have a published road trip book.
I thoroughly recommend that you leaf through the pages of this book.