For those familiar with the history of photography, it comes as no surprise that the open road has long beckoned photographers. Robert Frank’s “The Americans” is probably the most well-known and oft-cited book, but a host of other photographers — including Stephen Shore, Joel Sternfeld, Alec Soth, Vanessa Winship and many others — have also dipped their toes into it.
The road is very seductive, not to mention a huge part of American life. It’s not just photography enamored with it either, but books, movies and music as well. That seduction lives on, strongly, in a new book by Joshua Dudley Greer called “Somewhere Along the Line,” published this year by Kehrer Verlag.
The focus in Greer’s book is the huge network of U.S. superhighways. For six years, Greer made a conscious effort to move slowly and deliberately through these spaces, traveling some 100,000 miles by car. His ultimate goal was to make a portrait of “America’s infrastructure as a physical manifestation of its economic, social and environmental circumstances in unforeseen moments of humor, pathos and humanity.”
As we flip through the pages of the book, we encounter that humor, pathos and humanity as we tag along with Greer, seeing the things that he saw, the things that seem to say so much about where we are today as a country: a sign on the side of the road letting passersby know that someone is in need of a kidney; a man on a motorized scooter charging its battery in a nondescript parking lot; the surreal sight of people sitting on a grass embankment observing a car on fire on the highway.
In an introduction to the book, Tim Davis (a celebrated photographer of the American psyche in his own right) puts it all so much more eloquently than I can, drawing a parallel between Greer and Herman Melville, no less:
“Imagine how it felt in 1867 to hump a barge across the Great Lakes and Erie Canal, down the Hudson, and have the customs officer who paddles out of the Gansevoort Street Wharf to inspect your load be Herman Melville. Or don’t imagine. Just gaze in at the pictures in Somewhere Along the Line and realize we have our own Herman Melville right here in Joshua Dudley Greer, whose gorgeous stories of America’s turbulent inner seas are, like those of the pagan harpooners in the Try Works, ‘tales of terror told in words of mirth.’ ”
The following photos are just a small glimpse of those “tales of terror told in words of mirth.”
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