Photographers Capture the Open Road

Willie Nelson sang about it. Jack Kerouac wrote about it. Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis took it to extremes in Thelma and Louise. Beginning with the advent of the automobile, the great American road trip has captured the creative consciousness of a nation of artists. The tradition had an especially powerful influence on post–World War II photographers, and a new exhibit at Savannah’s Jepson Center, The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip (May 25–September 3), explores the work of nineteen lensmen who looked to ribbons of asphalt as their muse. “The exhibition begins with photographer Robert Frank and his seminal 1958 series, The Americans, and moves through present day,” says assistant curator Erin Dunn. Displayed chronologically, the show’s hundred photos tell the story of a nation—potholes and all. One of Dunn’s favorite photographs is Joel Sternfeld’s McLean, Virginia, December 1978. The startling image shows a fireman shopping for pumpkins at a farmers’ market while a house burns on a hill above him. “It turns out the fireman was participating in a training program, and he was on a break,” Dunn says. “But you wouldn’t know that initially. Sternfeld didn’t. Like many of the show’s images, it was serendipitous.” 


Scroll through the slideshow for a preview of the exhibit.

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Joel Meyerowitz, Florida, 1970.

Photo: © Joel Meyerowitz, Courtesy of the artist and Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

Justine Kurland, Claire, 8th Ward, 2012.

Photo: © Justine Kurland, Courtesy Mitchell-Innes & Nash Gallery, New York

Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs, Broken Street Line, 2008.

Photo: Courtesy of the artists and RaebervonStenglin, Zurich and Peter Lav, Copenhagen

Ed Ruscha, Phillips 66, Flagstaff, Arizona, 1962.

Photo: Courtesy of the artist

Bernard Plossu, New Mexico, 1980.

Photo: Courtesy of the artist, Eaton Fine Art, West Palm Beach, Florida

Todd Hido, #6097, 2007.

Photo: © Todd Hido, Courtesy the artist Bruce Silverstein Gallery, New York

Jacob Holdt, Alabama, 1970s.

Photo: © Jacob Holdt, Courtesy of the artist

Inge Morath, Outside Memphis, Tennessee, 1960.

Photo: © Inge Morath/Magnum Photos