Across America (1)

I have been tormented during the week by the memory of a reference to a book by a social geographer who took photographs as he travelled across America during the 1950s, mile by mile, as a documentary rather than an artistic record.   I’ve been unable to track down the reference.   But, in the course of my research, I hve bought a book called The Open Road:  Photography and the American Road Trip (New York:  Aperture, 2014), which goes some way to answering the question.   Early in the century, when it first became possible to cross the continent by road, Rand McNally produced Photo-Auto Guides, which illustrated automobile routes with deliberately nondescript photographs.   Then, in 1930, a Swiss journalist, Felix Moeschlin, travelled across America with a photographer, Dr. Kurt Richter.   They produced Amerika vom Auto Aus, with photographs of small towns, gas stations, and African-American workers.   I’m aware that there were plenty of major photographers who took photographs based on road trips, including Berenice Abbott, who photographed Route 1 in 1954, and Robert Frank who produced The Americans after being awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to travel across America in 1955.   But these were art photographers.   I am still looking for the ordinariness of the everyday record.

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2 thoughts on “Across America (1)

  1. Your post also reminded me of the work of the photojournalist Dan Weiner who worked for Fortune magazine. Not, I think, the geographer at the back your mind … but still a compelling visual recorder of 1950s America.

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