America by Car: Landscapes Framed by Rental Cars

Montana, 2008

Las Vegas, 2007

Las Vegas, 2007

New York City, 2002

Pennsylvania, 2002

America by Car: Landscapes Framed by Rental Cars

Photography by:  Lee Friedlander

America by Car is an acclaimed series of photographs by the master photographer Lee Friedlander.  Driving through most of the country’s fifty states in ordinary rental cars, he took his black-and-white, square-format photographs entirely from the interior of the rental cars.  Friedlander employed the brilliantly simple idea of using the sideview mirror, rearview mirror, the windshield, and the side windows as picture frames within which to record reflections of this country’s eccentricities and obsessions at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

Friedlander’s collection of photographs isn’t arranged in a manner that provides an On the Road style of narrative.  Instead, he groups images by subject, not geography: monuments, churches, houses, factories, ice cream shops, plastic Santas, roadside memorials.  Every snapshot includes and employs the vehicle’s interior and exterior elements as a means of fracturing and multiplying the image, providing a submersive sensory experience, like the one in which a driver might engage when glancing out at or studying something other than the road.

But as you look more closely at the photographs, the jarring and often deflecting nature of the images’ framings begins to fade, and you start to recognize the seemingly intentional groupings of subjects, pushed together as if to emphasize their similarity, but with clear divisions (the varied locations, for one; the physical and visual frames, for another.)  Then you also can recognize the keen sense of humor at play in many of the juxtapositions: a chain-link palm tree standing in the desert, a photo of a sign offering a photo-op in a quarter mile.  Finally, there’s the massive glory of disorder, a kind of celebration of roadside nonsense.

You can read more about Lee Friedlander’s America by Car in The New York Times here.

On the Road with Lee Friedlander

Lee Friedlander: America by Car

Slide Show: Lee Friedlander/America by Car

(Please Click Image to View Slide Show)

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