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THE 'ON THE ROAD TOO' PAGE

ON THE ROAD TOO, PART ONE

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THE 'ON THE ROAD TOO' BOOK AND EXHIBITION PROJECT
Concept and photographs: Peter Spaans. Text: Dan Schmidt.


For his book and exhibition project 'On the road too', Dutch artist Peter Spaans (Amsterdam, 1953) drove with his American friend Dan Schmidt new York, 1957) 6,700 miles (11,000 kilometers) from New York City to Las Vegas and back to New York City in just 19 days. They decided that they would travel as much as possible on older National highways and on State roads rather than on the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System. They knew that such a journey would afford them views of cities and towns, as well as of rural America, that one would not see from the Interstate Highways. Peter Spaans made 11,000 photographs during this trip. Most of the photographs were taken between 10 AM and 5 PM, as the light was brightest at that time of day. Spaans finally selected 1080 photographs, one image per page of the book. It is an extended, raw, uncensored, and uncommon visual report and study of America seen 19 days in a row, during a car-trip across America.

Unique is that Peter Spaans always photographed from the car. On the outward journey Peter Spaans generally captured his images from the open window on the right side of the car, or by the windshield. On the return trip he frequently photographed from the back of the car, either right or left side, depending on the position of the sun, and always with the window open. Day in, day out he focused on fixed points such as the grandness of the natural countryside, or electric and telephone wires, petrol stations, motels, churches, restaurants; he pointed his camera at houses and factories either empty, boarded up and abandoned, or inhabited.

Their trip took them through what are often referred to as “the fly-over states”. Ultimately, in a journey that took them from New York to Las Vegas, Nevada and back, they drove through twenty-one American States and one Canadian Province while covering 6,700 miles (11,000 km) in ninetheen days.
The journey by car or a road trip is a quintessential American experience, one that generations of Americans have undertaken. Peter Spaans and Dan Schmidt were inspired in part by Jack Kerouacâ's novel On The Road first published fifty years ago in 1957. They also looked back to James Agee and Walker Evans collaborative effort Let Us Now Praise Famous Men and the book The Americans by Robert Frank.

One of the stories of this trip is the transformation of the landscape by successive generations of Americans. As the photographs depict, each generation leaves both their masterpieces and their ruins behind. Creative destruction is heralded as the vital energy of American capitalism; the old and inefficient are constantly being replaced by the new. The resulting destruction is the price that is paid for progress. In the countryside of east Tennessee they observed a phenomenon that has been transforming the American landscape for generations; farmland giving way to new residential development. Nineteenth century wooden barns, silos and farmhouses now stand in close proximity to large contemporary homes as agricultural land is developed into suburban housing tracts. Tobacco was still hanging in the barns to dry as it has for hundreds of years, what is different is that adjacent to the barn is a four bedroom home situated on an acre of land whose owner probably commutes to work in nearby Knoxville by automobile.

THIS PAGE NEEDS TO BE UPDATED.  FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THIS PROJECT: JOHAN DEUMENS GALLERY, AMSTERDAM