I started my cross country road trip from Pennsylvania to California at the beginning of June, and ended the trip at the beginning of July. The entire trip was photographed with only a Polaroid 230 Land Camera and FP-100C film. I’ve spent a long time since ending my trip trying to figure out the perfect way to write about the 24 photos I took during that trip. Originally I intended to approach it as a travel series, but I’ve discovered that that really isn’t what I created. I’m sure that sounds like a strange thing to say, but I hope my explanation will help you approach your own travel photos a bit differently.
In looking back at my photos, I’ve found that what I photographed was not really meant to document the United States. It was not meant to say something greater about the country as a whole, to reveal something about this country that others haven’t had the opportunity to see. It was meant to be a collection of the experiences that were important to me, that spoke to me. Each photo is a piece of a place that changed me forever, and so the series is very personal. I’ve gone so far as to consider the entire series a self-portrait of sorts.
There are a few photos in particular that illustrate how personal the series is to me. The double exposure portrait I included of my fiancé at Venice Beach for instance, it shows that one of the most enjoyable parts of all that I experienced was sharing those experiences with him. It’s a photo that I certainly wouldn’t include in a more traditional travel series, but it works for the personal approach that I took to my photos.
The photo titled “Rear Window” is a view from the room I stayed at in California. I looked out that window every day, sometimes in passing, and sometimes I would just stand there looking out at the orange trees, lemon trees, and palms. Below the window is the pool that is also the subject of two other photos in the series. I spent a lot of time at that window, and swimming in the pool below it. Again, these are all photos that just wouldn’t fit in the traditional travel series. They are windows into my own very personal experience of my trip.
There are also more stereotypical travel photos in the series, like my photo of the Grand Canyon for instance. But the inclusion of photos like this doesn’t in any way detract from the personal element of the series. The Grand Canyon photo, although expected from a US road trip series, is very important to me. My fiancé and I made an hour detour for the visit and paid to get into the park only for a few brief minutes. It was worth the extra time and money, and one of the most memorable parts of the trip.
Even my decision to use instant film makes the series more personal. It isn’t exactly the optimum format for such a project. The format is very simple, and prone to flaws. Instant film is a format that is close to my heart though; it fits my style and the way that I work best.
I encourage anyone considering getting into travel photography, or even those who have taken countless travel photos already to approach your photos in a similar way. Don’t ask yourself what others want to see from your travels, ask yourself what sites were most important to you when traveling. How did your experiences change you? What do you hope to never forget? What can your travels say about you? I think you’ll find that this approach lends itself well to avoiding the creation of dull travel photos that have little to say. You the artist are an extremely important element of your work, don’t be afraid to show yourself in each and every photo you take.