Highway 61, which stretches nearly 1,600 miles from northern Minnesota to New Orleans, is known as the Great River Road as it runs alongside the Mississippi, and the Blues Highway when it rambles through the Delta. For decades, the actress Jessica Lange has explored Highway 61, revisiting the road near where she grew up in Cloquet, Minnesota, and often traveling it all the way to New Orleans, where she currently owns a home. In her new book, Highway 61, Lange shares a powerful collection of some of the black and white photographs she’s snapped during her travels—images of the road’s stark landscapes, crumbling buildings, roadside cafes, and the people who live and work along it.
“Long stretches of 61 are empty, forlorn, as if in mourning for what has gone missing,” Lange writes in the book. “Stores all boarded up, weeds growing through the asphalt of countless vacant parking lots. Some of the people left, creating a ghostly beauty in their leave-taking. Some remain, perhaps yearning for that more vibrant past but reluctant to abandon the place called home.”
One of Lange’s companions on many of her drives was her friend and Garden & Gun contributor Julia Reed, who, in a G&G piece, described elements of their road trips: “We discovered abandoned churches and primeval cypress brakes, hung out in blues bars and juke joints… We dipped our toes in the Mississippi, watched cotton being ginned, and encountered no end of heartbreaking stray dogs that I struggled to keep Jessica, an inveterate softy, from immediately adopting.”
Lange collects photographs from those adventures in the new book. There are scenes from Memphis, New Orleans, and the Delta. “It has been a long drive,” Lange writes, “wrapped in my story.”