For years now, I’ve been traveling back to Oklahoma to visit family there. On my first trip, I had no idea what to expect and wasn’t really sure a Southern California boy was going to enjoy it much. What did they have to offer, cows?
I was so wrong. Since then I’ve come to love my visits there and take the opportunity to explore more of the area on each trip.
Exploring rural America can be a challenge. People are often suspicious of you and rightfully wonder if you are there to exploit them with yet another “Look at these poor country people” stories. It’s taken me several trips to develop a relationship in some of the towns so the people don’t question me as I walk around. I try to be respectful, always asking permission before entering someones land for a photograph if I don’t like the view from a public street. It helps to have images from past trips on my phone that I can show them. The most common reaction I get is, Why? They can’t see the beauty in old worn out homes being reclaimed by nature. They don’t see the appeal of a gas station that’s been left closed and unchanged for 30 years.
For me, these things are the history of the midwest. Clichéd I know, but I find the relics in these small towns that time passed by, beautiful. You can trace the old roads and train lines on a map by looking at where the towns are located. All left forgotten once the interstates and turnpikes opened. As I’ve returned to some of the towns over the years I’ve found that many of the scenes I’ve photographed are no longer around. Much of the areas have been torn down make way for something more modern. More than once these modern updates are empty on a subsequent trip.
I have many more images to post but I’m not sure yet how to put them all together. For now you’ll probably find more snippets from past or future trips. I finally have enough images to put together an actual show or dedicated website for my project. I just don’t know how to go about it yet.