BY NEIL HARRISON AND MATT WIGNALL
America is at one of its greatest crossroads socially, economically and politically. It teeters on a variety of extremes, political polarization, environmental disasters, greed, crime, poverty and the list goes on. While these concepts fill our media and our minds from every direction, they say little to nothing about the real American spirit. The driving thrust of this country has always been rugged individualism, the cowboy spirit, malcontents and outlaws, puritans and indians, mexicans and Irish, hobos and inventors, etc. Polar opposites all looking for one thing. Freedom. It is an idea that has been roughly co-opted by corporate commercialism for better and worse. Levis with their “Go Forth” campaign, movies like “Into The Wild” and the upcoming adaption of Jack Kerouac’s “On The Road”. These stories capture the imagination of millions, but they are models and actors playing parts. They mistake the idea for the experience, they market the look in the media, but it says nothing of substance about the current state of American life. We are living through some of America’s most dynamic history in the making. What does the road look like now? What does freedom look like? What will it look like in 20 more years? Where are the inventors? The hobos? What is left of the American spirit? is there still something to be searched for and experienced here in the USA?
With these questions and this vision in mind, and a respect for craft and design, we will set off this Fall for the first of many trips to document the country of our birth. We will photograph the road, and the people, and the future and the past with various film cameras and moving pictures. Our interests are to live without direction. We do not seek to rehash Route 66 and Cadillac Ranch and all the cliches of the road. Rather we seek to find and document the current spirit of American Living. These photographs will consider the fashion of contemporary America, our cars, our clothing, and the artifacts of recent history. m.wignall
Early Road Trip, Matt Wignall with stick, and Neil Harrison with Hasselblad, Costa Rica, photo. wignall
Hail, rain, frost, fog tornadoes, high winds, lightning… you may notice we have not been camping very much, and shooting has been a little challenging too. We have, however, stayed in some great little cabins and out of the way places that keep us well in touch with the local environment. Lo Lo Mai Springs Campground treated us well, and once your in the Sedona red rock country, you can pretty much pick your place. So we’ve photographed nature, tourists, the town, some new age crap, and I think we are heading for some crater now.
Neil getting wrecked on the road to the hiking trail where we got rained on before and after shooting.
Neil and I are considering matching “Thug Life” tattoos.
So we are shooting mostly medium and large format black and white film on this trip, but sometimes color is the way to go, so when we are in a place like Pete’s, we run a few digital images taken on a 5d Mark II. It has become the go to for color documentation. Nothing can compare to real black and white film, but to our eyes, high end digital color has gotten pretty darn good. We are still a little suspect though.
There are many more from the Pete’s garage that were shot on medium format film. These will not be available until we do our first exhibit on account of, we currently have no way to develop and print film on the road. This will likely not change as toting a dark room around would be a total pain in the ass, but it has been crossing our minds.
Here is the latest. We are still marooned in Phoenix, which for those who don’t know, is the pawn shop/we buy gold, capital of the world. This is fantastic for our survey of American society. Not good for camping out and saving money. So here’s the problem, our turbo died in the diesel, just a freak part failure, it happens, everything else is tip top. The TLC LandCruiser guys were on it to no end, first talking with the mechanic we found, and second, shipping us the part on Saturday for Monday delivery. It’s good to have the support of a real company based in America who give-a-darn. So we’ve been shooting for like 8 hours a day in Phoenix, and really pushing ourselves to get the visual goods. We will have some pictures to post soon, as well as a photographic camp site breakdown, Navajo country, New Mexico canyon lands and beyond. In the meantime, here is some photographic inspiration we have been vibing on. People and things that get our hearty endorsement.
Phoenix has been a quiet storm, much like Kenny G’s music. Everything about us needs to be on the road, but fate has a way of dishing out “continental failure”, a term I coined to describe my 8 plus massive coast to coast breakdowns over the last 15 years. I apologize to Neil for becoming his Jonah. Here are a couple of digi shots from Phoenix, we both wish we could turn the film around fast enough to post it here, because the film shots are what we are here for, and those are the real images. The permanent physical record. We will be camping tonight east of Tuba City on Navajo land. Looking forward to getting back to the open land and the salt of the Earth people. m.wignall
A few images from the digital eye of Matt and Neil:
Here below we have Mike, or Mike Phoenix as we now call him. Mike has saved our lives by driving to Cottonwood, and bringing us to Phoenix, and then driving us around like a couple mafia goons in his black Infinity. Mike is the Future Road Maps follower of the month. A prize we do not hand out lightly. He is also a pretty sweet artist:
Our Future Road Maps person of the week is our friend David Bonaventura, who aside from having some New Mexico land, also runs the vibey TSOVET watch brand. He hooked us up with this amazing ranch land outside of Grants. The land is empty right now, nothing but a couple of trails and what must be thousands of acres of red rocks, bears and mountain cats. No permits, no hassle, just a gate with a lock to the middle of nowhere. We plowed through the woods and rock to find our own little camping site where we put together the roof tent and a quick fire pit, then we ran off to take pictures. This basically was the agenda for two nights out there. Here are a couple of the digi shots, we can’t wait to get our film developed!
And we’ll wrap it up with this last shot, on the road to the ranch land, which pretty much sums up why we love New Mexico.
We arrived in New Mexico to visit our friends Sage and Hella, the FRM people of the week. They own an Earthship in the high country above Santa Fe, New Mexico. Sage was born into the Hog Farm commune which were a bunch of hippies who rolled into this area directly from the Woodstock festival in psychedelic school buses. Roughly 30 of these original people still live there today. We photographed as many as we could and spent hours socializing and photographing with anyone who would let us. Again, we are shooting on film, so we only have these few digi shots as an overview of an insanely incredible time.
The cruiser aptly handling the hills to where a lot of these people live, within a month you will only be able to get in and out by snow mobile or sled dog.
Hella above, and Hog Farmer artist Alberto in his house below. His wife gave us the most amazing homemade cherry wine, grapes, and Spanish cheese. Get a look at his insane wood burning stove.
And a bunch of Southwest amazing, shot by Neil on the Iphone.
Jim and his sweet Foreign Auto Service shop in Santa Fe below. He fixed a leaky seal for us on the Cruiser, and was a huge Volkswagen buff, which kept us occupied for a while at his shop.
…and some Santa Fe bohemians whom are our best friends now.