It was drizzling and mysterious at the beginning of our journey. I could see that it was going to be one big saga of the mist. 'Whooee!' yelled Dean. 'Here we go!' And he hunched over the wheel and gunned her; he was back in his element, everybody could see that. We were all delighted, we all realized we were leaving confusion and nonsense behind and performing our one and noble function of the time, move. And we moved! We flashed past the mysterious white signs in the night somewhere in New Jersey that say SOUTH (with an arrow) and WEST (with an arrow) and took the south one. New Orleans! It burned in our brains. From the dirty snows of 'frosty fagtown New York', as Dean called it, all the ways to the greeneries and river smells of old New Orleans at the washed out bottom of America; then west. Ed was in the back seat; Marylou and Dean and I sat in front and had the warmest talk about the goodness and joy of life. Dean suddenly became tender. "Now dammit, look here, all of you we must admit that everything is fine and there's no need in the world to worry, and infact we should realize what it would mean to us to UNDERSTAND that we're not REALLY worried about ANYTHING. Am I right? We all agreed. 'Here we go, we're all together..." On The Road. Jack Kerouac.
These pictures were shot during 1993-1994. They were made on a 30,000-mile road trip around north and central America in a '77 Pontiac Grand Prix. A well-thumbed copy of On The Road was certainly in the car somewhere and my hobo like existence was very much in keeping with Kerouac's travels. In 2007 it was 50 years since 'On The Road' was published. Hopefully the accompanying publicity will introduce it to a new generation and a few of our youngsters will take off in search of Sal Paradise and of Dean Moriarty. Whether Kerouac's 'stream of consciousness' style or his arcane beatific philosophy will appeal to the Harry Potter generation is yet to be seen. The book certainly contains moments of great descriptive prose about America, about jazz music, about the sheer joy of being young and alive, and about the fleeting freedom of the open road. But the book is a lot like the country represented in my photographs in its ability to divide opinion. Truman Capote supposedly said it was not literature but "typing" and for every wide eyed follower of the Kerouacian pursuit of freedom there is someone to damn his irresponsible escapism. Stagnation and the desire for security are eternal and powerful forces and most, with resentful hindsight succumb to them too early.
Kerouac's novel and my photographs document the opposing and equally powerful forces: those of hitting the road in the search for freedom. I'm not sure that Sal, Dean or I found freedom, but we seemed to be aware that it existed somewhere. At least we tried to find it instead of ordering it online. On the Road has instilled in several generations a belief that, in order to find oneself, one had to throw caution to the wind and travel long distances with no real goal and very little money. Despite the book's evident age, gushing emotionalism and random narrative I believe its vivid content is as relevant and poignant as ever.
On The Road
Staten Island ferry. NYC. November 1993.
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San Francisco. July 1994.
Chicago. December 1993,
Canadian/US border crossing. December 1993.
Nevada. August 1994.
'77 Grand Prix. Windsor, Ontario. Canada. December 1993.
Farmers house. Eastern Colorado. August 94.
Chicago. December 1993.
Rancher. Eastern Colorado. August 1994.
Mississippi River. St Louis. Missouri. February 1994.
Chicago. December 1993.
Pennsylvania. August 1994.
Civil War Memorial. Illinois. January 1994.
Manhattan Island. NYC. November 1993.
Hostel window, Manhattan. NYC. September 1994.
Abandoned drive in cinema. Illinois. January 1994.