Friday, June 03, 2016

The Last Stop: Vanishing Rest Stops of the American Roadside by Ryann Ford

Photographs by Ryann Ford, from The Last Stop: Vanishing Rest Stops of the American Roadside, published by powerHouse Books.

On a solo road trip from California to central Texas along historic Route 66, in 2007, photographer Ryann Ford was struck by the multitude of humble, solitary mid-century rest stops built during the nation’s golden age of car travel. After doing some research, Ford was alarmed to learn that these rest areas were currently being closed and demolished all over the country due to budget cuts.

"It’s difficult for states to justify the tens of thousands of dollars a month required to mow the lawns and empty the trash cans, so unfortunately a lot of these old stops are being closed and demolished. I’ve even seen stops that seem very well preserved and well kept vanish overnight. It’s as if their historical and architectural significance is irrelevant, I wonder if it was even considered? Since I started this project in 2008, I’ve seen dozens and dozens of these stops vanish, and they are still vanishing today."

The Route 66 trip left Ford wanting more, so she set out on a quest to document as many of these locales as possible, all across the country, driving over 10,000 miles and photographing over 400 rest stops, all on film. Not all 400 are in the book, around 100 were selected.

What was the story behind these quirky and playful pieces of Americana, such as the mock adobe dwellings in New Mexico and faux oil rigs in Texas, which she passed by?

Many feel that these old rest stops are no longer necessary, and many were being closed and scheduled for demolition. Determined to capture as many as she could while they were still in existence, Ford did whatever she needed to gain access.

Collected together for The Last Stop: Vanishing Rest Stops of the American Roadside, Ford’s photographs take us on a memorable ride across the United States, visiting more than 75 different locales along the way. Included in the book are rest stops in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, Illinois, Kansas, Montana, Mississippi, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, and Missouri.

She funded her book via the Kickstarter website and was "blown away" when it easily clocked up pledges of more than $35,000 in a matter of weeks.

The book’s design is well executed and the 10″ x 12″ trim size of the book gives ample space for the photos. Each rest stop shown in the book has a corresponding geo-tag location and a dot on an adjacent map of where it is located along her journey.

The Last Stop does far more than capture the remarkable, effective design of our nation's road stops. It preserves a moment in time that is quickly fading, a unique period in the American travel experience when the journey was just as important as the destination. It's clear these modest structures did far more than provide picnic tables, they shaped our collective experience of golden-age car travel across the vast United States.

the book is already selling at Amazon

Prints are available on her Etsy page

About the Author / Photographer

After graduating from Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, she landed the most unbelievable job on earth with Resorts and Great Hotels magazine, photographing hotels all over the world and eating free room service.

 After a few years of living like a gypsy, she moved to Austin with her Chihuahua, Mr. Big. After arriving in Austin, she fell in love with the city and bought a bumper sticker that said “I’m not from Texas, but I got here as fast as I could.”

Now a photographer for clients like Better Homes and Gardens, The New York Times and Texas Monthly. 

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