American facades by the roadside: photography on Route 66
A photographic journey through the road facades of America
In his current series, The mother road, Hayley Eichenbaum documents the tainted romanticism of highway architecture on Route 66 in the American Southwest
There is a cinematic quality in Hayley Eichenbaum The mother road, a staged seduction that is more like a screen than reality.
Indeed, filmmaking was one of Eichenbaum’s key influences on the project, particularly the work of Stanley Kubrick. “The cinematography and the way he uses geometry is so appealing. I aim to present scenes reminiscent of the classic big screen. Yet the images are void of characters, evoking a sense of mystery and perhaps instability.
Eichenbaum, who plans to release a book next year, is an artist who is very familiar with the American road network. She has driven the iconic Route 66 – which connects Chicago to Santa Monica – eight times in the past seven years, becoming “addicted” to the vernacular of the American Southwest. “As I walked slowly along America’s oldest highway, I was drawn to its colorful architecture. It was quite spectacular to see these structures among very varied climates.
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The mother road: an American dream on the brink
The mother road is titled after a nickname for Route 66, also holds a personal resonance for Eichenbaum. “It also became the road that literally connected my mom and I when battling ovarian cancer. I drove the road with my dog from LA to the Midwest, and back again, during his treatment. Although I don’t focus much on my driving, there is a literality in the title The mother road. ‘
In the images of Eichenbaum, there is an eerie lack of human presence, but the coziness in the roadside neon lights shines and beckons. His subjects, in pastel, modernist and minimalist colors; an American dream on the verge of decay, symbolize a bygone golden age for Route 66.
“The road presents a fading nostalgia that inspires me to document its ever-changing landscape. This part of American society is threatened by capitalism and mass chains, like everywhere else in the world. It’s disheartening to see our environment become more homogeneous as a result.
The mother road, which Eichenbaum started in 2014, is currently on view in the new online gallery Homecoming, which aims to make the collection of photographic art more accessible, diverse and exciting. The online exhibition was curated by Holly Fraser, Director of Content at WePresent, and will also be on display at the Amsterdam Affordable Art Fair (until October 31, 2021).
Eichenbaum’s work is the latest in a series of curations for Homecoming by industry experts. Recently, Wallpaper director of photography Holly Hay took the reins of curating for the gallery, which showcased the work of rising star photographers Deo Suveera and Hugo Yu. §