Some Background on Interstate, page 3


I started this project quite spontaneously in late 2012 after a delay of decades. Inspired by my recollection of the postcard, I began to look for other images of major highways. The Internet makes this easy, and I found all I needed on Flickr, the photo-sharing site. I limited myself to images that like my postcard carried an aspect of anonymity, were substantially non-inflected by explicit compositional strategies and did not depict an exceptional event such as an accident, a police stop, an unusual truck. One thing I particularly appreciated was that unlike many amateur photographs, the photographer and friends are almost never inserted into these images. These are nearly always outward depersonalized views, whether taken from a moving vehicle, an overpass, a bridge or an airplane.Sometimes I found a great number of photographs by a single individual, in which case I took only a few. (And there are several individuals who upload thousands of interstate images, prominent among them is Doug Kerr—Dougtone by his nom d’écran—who must certainly be a long-haul truck driver given the extent of his travels. Look him up on Flickr.)

I stopped at about 170 images of all possible views—169 to be exact—of all resolutions, aspect ratios and subjects. Most were digital at their origin but some were scanned historical photos. Most were taken by individuals who would probably not self-identify as photographers but some were clearly by those who do. And more than a few originated with departments of transportation or as engineering studies.

In that anonymity and neutrality were central concerns, it goes without saying that simply taking the images myself would have defeated the entire exercise. It would also have presented an insuperable esthetic dilemma: how to deal with images ostensibly uninflected by esthetic ends if you’re taking them yourself for an art project? Impossible. The central objectives of the work are multiplicity and expansiveness. These can only be gained by compilation.

In the middle of this project we had to vacate our longtime home. To my extraordinary delight the postcard resurfaced while I was clearing out the detritus of 26 years. Fully at one with its ostensible subject—the New York State Thruway—it was pretty much as I had remembered it, although there was clearly a bit more care in the composition than I had given it credit for.

Here it is:

It turns out that the view is not entirely arbitrary. It is identified as the highest point on the Thruway without any other precision as to location. The photographer is Nelson Jones.)


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