Cumulus clouds billow above a stretch of Route 66 in Arizona
Andreas Feininger, 1947
In 1947, Andreas Feininger made a photograph in Arizona that might be the single most perfect picture ever made of the single most famous road in America: Route 66, the 2,400-mile “Mother Road’ that runs from Chicago through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and finally across the Mojave to Los Angeles. The picture is a remarkable distillation of an idea: namely, that the American West is a place where people find themselves, or lose themselves, amid heat, sun, open spaces, enormous skies.
Despite the fact that Feininger’s photograph is packed with “information” — cars, a bus, human figures, a gas station, a garage, towering clouds, an arrow-straight ribbon of road to the horizon — its essential emptiness can be read as a metaphor for the blank slate that innumerable people have sought in the West. Here is where you can redefine yourself, the scene suggests. Reimagine yourself. Reinvent yourself. Then keep moving.
via Megan Quinn