Early settlers imagined the New World as a pristine, uninhabited wilderness – a landscape of unparalleled beauty, magnitude and possibility. Yet the driving impulse of expansion was rarely to commune with nature, but more often a desire to carve a garden from these wilds and create a new civilization, unique from all others. Lines began to be drawn, initially through agriculture and settlements, then railways and cities, and eventually the road.
Today the American landscape is carved up by nearly 4,000,000 miles of roadways that lead us from the city to the wilderness and all spaces in between. The Interstate Highway System in particular has permanently altered the way we experience the surrounding landscape. By leveling mountains, mowing down forests and circumventing rivers, we have created an easily accessible, anonymous space that allows us to enact our fantasies and freedoms, but is also forcing us to reconcile a new and deeper understanding of place. While some may view this infrastructure as nothing more than a necessary evil of modern existence, it can also be seen as a manifestation of our collective consciousness, our failures and aspirations. The ideas of mobility, prosperity, community and growth, cornerstones of the American Dream, still seduce many of us to strike out on the road in search of something beyond what our daily lives provide. For some it may be a job or a lifestyle, for others an escape. Whatever the motivation may be, we are all visitors somewhere.
The photographs that comprise this body of work have been made on an extensive series of road trips taken throughout the United States over a number of years. Drawing on references from history, film and literature, the contemporary American landscape is depicted as a stage where narratives play out and opposing forces intersect. The boundaries that line this landscape, whether real or imagined, are examined by looking at the separations between public and private space, privilege and need, the individual and the collective, and the countervailing ideas of home and escape. The sites and people depicted are all united by the influence of the road, by our shared history, and by my attempts to reconcile the past with the present.