BOOK REVIEW // The Open Road by David Campany

Photography and the American Road Trip

The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip
10 x 11 1/2 in. (25.4 x 29.21 cm)
336 pages
300 duotone and four-color images
Hardcover with jacket
September 2014

'The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip' is the first book to explore the photographic road trip as a genre. It opens with a comprehensive introduction, which traces the rise of road culture in America and considers photographers on the move across the country and across the century, from the early 1900s to present day.

Here, editor Denise Wolff, author David Campany, and featured photographers Joel Meyerowitz, Justine Kurland, and Todd Hido discuss the book, and their own relationship to the the road. 'The Open Road' is a visual tour-de-force, pres­enting the story of photographers for whom the American road is muse.


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INTERVIEW // “Robert Frank, Sarah Greenough, Ed Ruscha and Joel Meyerowitz on ‘The Americans'” (2009)

A half century ago, one photographer took to the road, visiting, bars, factories, cemeteries, documenting a country in transition. His book was called, The Americans, his name, Robert Frank. 

Hitchhikers leaving Blackfoot, Idaho towards Butte, Montana, 1956

(Transcript from a Tom Cole / NPR segment, 2009)


Cole: The Americans was actually reviled when it was first published in this country, say Sarah Greenough, who curated the current National Gallery show.

Greenough: Popular Photography asked a number of writers to critique the book, and almost all of them were very negative. It was described as a sad poem by a very sick person.

Cole: The Americans offered a very different view of America than the wholesome non-confrontational photo essays offered by such magazines as Popular Photography, and Life. Robert Frank captured people who were not always sharing in the American dream of the 1950’s; factory workers in Detroit, transvestites in New York, the black riders in a segregated trolley in New Orleans. He didn’t even get much support from the art world, as he recalled in 1994, the last time the National Gallery mounted a show of his work.

Robert Frank: The Museum of Modern Art wouldn’t even sell the book, you know. I mean, certain things one doesn’t forget so easy. But, the younger people caught on,

Joel Meyerowitz: It was the vision that emanated from the book that lead not only me, but my whole generation of photographers out into the American landscape, in a sense, the lunatic sublime of America.

Cole: Joel Meyerowitz was one of the young photographers inspired by The Americans. So were Garry Winogrand, and Lee Friedlander, and Ed Ruscha.

Ed Ruscha: Robert Frank came out here and he just showed that you could see the USA until you spit blood.


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Photographer // Curran Hatleberg

Earlier in the week ... I put forth Robert Frank’s “The Americans” as an example of a Western work that has challenged (or stimulated) the photographers to come after it. Perhaps Curran Hatleberg’s photos could be seen as a response to “The Americans,” given that his projects, “The Crowded Edge” and “Dogwood,” were also taken over the course of road trips through America. You could see Hatleberg as an heir to the tradition of road trip photography in general, and road trip snapshot photography in particular. This viewpoint, however, would probably sell Hatleberg’s work short.

Curran Hatleberg 


by Dan Abbe

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