Grand View Canyon Road, Idaho

Wish You Were Here series, 2009-2013

Sunset on Devil’s Lake, North Dakota

Wish You Were Here series, 2009-2013 

Corn Palace, Mitchell, South Dakota

Wish You Were Here series, 2009-2013

Everglades National Momument Welcome Center, Florida

Wish You Were Here series, 2009-2013 

Lobster, Islamadora, Florida

Wish You Were Here series, 2009-2013

Jefferson and Washington Monuments, Washington D.C.

Wish You Were Here series, 2009-2013

Nick's Beach Bar, Galveston, Texas

Wish You Were Here series, 2009-2013

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse, Pemaquid, Maine

Wish You Were Here series, 2009-2013

Geese in Flight, Enchanted Highway, North Dakota

Wish You Were Here series, 2009-2013

Veterans Memorial Park, Lewiston, Maine

Wish You Were Here series, 2009-2013

St. Louis Cemetery, New Orleans, Louisiana

Wish You Were Here series, 2009-2013

Rest Stop at Cozad, Nebraska

Wish You Were Here series, 2009-2013

Front Street, Ogalala, Nebraska

Wish You Were Here series, 2009-2013

New York City from Hoboken, New Jersey

Wish You Were Here series, 2009-2013

Route 66, Arizona

Wish You Were Here series, 2009-2013

Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Wish You Were Here series, 2009-2013

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Wish You Were Here series, 2009-2013

Downtown Las Vegas, Nevada

Wish You Were Here series, 2009-2013

Yellowstone National Monument Campground, Wyoming

Wish You Were Here series, 2009-2013

Samuel Clemen's Grave, Elmira, New York

Wish You Were Here series, 2009-2013

Mammoth Springs with British Tourists, Wyoming

Wish You Were Here series, 2009-2013

The Wall That Heals, Altoona, Pennsylvania

Wish You Were Here series, 2009-2013

Rocky Mountains, Wyoming

Wish You Were Here series, 2009-2013

Seneca Rocks, West Virginia

Wish You Were Here series, 2009-2013

Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts

Wish You Were Here series, 2009-2013

Gettysberg Memorial, Pennsylvania

Wish You Were Here series, 2009-2013

Bottle House, Kaleva, Michigan

Wish You Were Here series, 2009-2013

United Auto Workers Tribute to Women Memorial, Flint, Michigan

Wish You Were Here series, 2009-2013

Downtown Albany, New York

Wish You Were Here series, 2009-2013

First Congregational Church, Vermont

Wish You Were Here series, 2009-2013

Covered Bridge, Waveland, Indiana

Wish You Were Here series, 2009-2013

Shark Store, South Carolina

Wish You Were Here series, 2009-2013

Missouri State Penitentiary, Jefferson City, Missouri

Wish You Were Here series, 2009-2013

Barbed Wired Buffalo, Gotthenberg, Nebraska

Wish You Were Here series, 2009-2013

Wish You Were Here

20"x30" and 10"x15" photographs; 2009 - 2014

Wish You Were Here is a creative photographic project, depicting a 1964 aluminum travel trailer in front of iconic American landscapes from across the country. These images welcome the viewer to consider the nostalgic implications of the road trip, while depicting the apparent decline of the economies that formed around road trip culture. Other images emphasis the presence of spaces that appear to still be natural and “wild”. These contrast sharply with contemporary technology-dependent life, but reflect the economic frailty in which our culture finds itself. This work represents a distinctly American form of culture, though one admittedly on the decline.

This Avion travel trailer, named Alice for the first woman to drive across the country, has traveled to 48 contiguous states between 2009-2013. I photographed Alice as the surrogate for the nuclear family of a bygone era, posed in front of the monuments, the scenic overlooks, and the kitschy roadside attractions, though the ever-present road stands with her, beckoning us to the next nostalgic turn-off.

While this work has the visual impact of beautiful photography and accessible ideas (road trips, travel trailers), the intellectual merit lies in its ability to narrate a story—something did happen (I drove to those places and made a photograph) and what might have happened (the viewer could do it too)—and speak to the cultural story of the “road trip culture” that arrived with the age of the interstate highway and the automobile. This culture is one that has declined as air travel has become more affordable, yet still maintains a romantic association with freedom, adventure, and spontaneity. This work invites viewers to “feel” those reactions, and attempts to generate nostalgia for something that may or may not really exist for the viewer, the road trip, or even the artist. This work also reveals the contradiction within those longings, as many of the businesses and towns that were formed as a result of road trip culture have fallen into decline, disrepair, or disappeared all together.
Copyright © Kristen S. Wilkins, 2020. All rights reserved.
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