Today I am featuring work that I encountered at Review LA, either in a review or on the Portfolio Walk.
Virginia photographer, Gordon Stettinius, is one of the few photographers that makes me laugh out loud. It was great to see Gordon at Review LA as I have been a long time fan of his work. Gordon created one of the first on-line magazines in the late 90’s, Eye Caramba, and has been active in the toy camera community for many years. But Gordon’s work is not defined by a plastic lens; it’s defined by his incredible visual sensibility. To learn more about Gordon, Thoughts on Photography has an interview, and his blog, Gord is Dead, is “chock full of nothin'”. He is currently taking a year off from teaching in the Art Department at Virginia Commonwealth University to start an independent publishing company focusing on fine art photography primarily.
Gordon has a new exhibition at the Robin Rice Gallery in New York that opened on January 20th and will close on February 28th. His project, Notes from U.S. Route 1, takes us on the kind of trip we all fantasize about, where the quirkier side of American culture is explored and celebrated.
Notes from U.S. Route 1 is an ongoing photographic survey of an historic American highway running from Fort Kent, Maine along the Canadian border down over 2,000 miles to Key West, Florida and connecting most of the major cities along the east coast.
After it was superceded by U.S. Interstate 95 in the 1950’s as the main north-south thoroughfare on the east coast, Route 1 has been evolving the character of the blue highways that William Least Heat Moon wrote so entertainingly about. Traveling these roads, a person will find mostly two lanes throughout, with the occasional interruption by a turnpike or major thoroughfare around the larger cities.
Awash in nostalgia and the ghosts of tourism from decades past, you drive this collection of secondary roads and you experience a slight temporal shift… time bends and memories of childhood vacations come to mind, memories of college roadtrips, places that remind you of other places… Instead of feeling isolated in a metal cocoon and hurtling down a major interstate, on the slow roads in the summertime, with no real destination you can put the windows down and stop every fifteen minutes if you want. whenever you hear the lonesome call of a pool table or need a shot of caffeine.
Where to stop is the perpetual question. There is always the sense of adventure when driving a long distance. But adventure can be a bit like the angel over your shoulder whereas intellectual laziness and corporate homogeny will be the devils perched on your other shoulder, and always they are slugging it out… What should it be? A small probably clean and possibly charming local hotel for the night? Or maybe the predictably adequate but generally innocuous Super 8 down the road? A café named for Dixie Lee? Or the Starbucks that seems like it is actually following you around? Choices. All manner of choices. And so the trip comes to resemble the traveler.
If you should have an interest in the state of this nation – and you should – then all the vital signs of our economy and social condition can be found along the way. Tensions abound, of course, but so does beauty. Pastoral scenes are punctuated by urban blight. Religion is found alongside temptation. Cafes and vegetable stands and city parks versus fast food and strip clubs and roadside attractions. Motorcycles and local traffic and semi-trailers and congestion. The highways giveth and the bigger highways have taken away. Some places along Route 1 seem to have reclaimed their dignity by not succumbing to the crush of commerce and the lure of the tourist dollar while some places seem as though they have become profoundly distressed and inhospitable. But no matter who you are, you have to stop occasionally and stretch your legs.
And this is what you might see… if you are looking.
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