Between LA and Texas - PART II

As I’d written in the last entry, I’ve spent a good deal of time over the past decade-plus driving back and forth between Los Angeles and Texas

In general exploring California, the Southwest, and Texas whenever I can, with occasional jaunts into northern New Mexico and now two Utah and Colorado drive-throughs

And that I often recapture scenes, this sporadic tradition dating back to 2008, the year of my first photo road trip outside of California

I thought I’d share in this entry a selection of then and now photographs, some of the earliest and some of the most recent, which includes a few b/w photos from the most recent ramblings, fresh from dr5 (Ilford Delta 400), as well as a few additional new color (Kodak Portra 400)

One of my favorite little towns along the Route 66 / Highway 40 path that I take more than any other is Seligman, Arizona. I think I’ve mentioned this before. Great little eatery there, too, called Westside Lilo’s Cafe. Beautiful expanse of land out that way. Quiet. And then Seligman, tiny, and one of just a few joints sporadically dotting the long, empty stretch from Ash Fork to Kingman

The old Seligman service station lights still stand, as does the old Datsun, more than a decade later. Two very familiar sites that I like to check in on whenever out that way. While the only thing that changes about the station, aside from time’s influence, is the presence of greenery or lack thereof, the Datsun has been known to move here and there in the little bordered lot it occupies

These Seligman photographs are being shown ahead of the others because they are some of the first I’d made outside of California

The old service station lights, Seligman, AZ, 2008/9 - 4x5 Polaroid

The old service station lights, Seligman, AZ, 2008/9 - 35mm

The old service station lights, Seligman, AZ, 2017 - 120 Delta 100 (6x6)

The old service station lights, Seligman, AZ, 2019 - 120 Portra (6x7)

The old Datsun, Seligman, AZ, 2017 - 120 Delta 100 (6x6)

The old Datsun, Seligman, AZ, 2017 - 120 Delta 100 (6x6)

The old Datsun, Seligman, AZ, 2019 - 120 Portra (6x7)

Often while either entering or exiting Seligman, depending on which direction I’m traveling, I make exposures from the overpass on the edge of town. There’s an ease about the view. And it’s familiar now. A reacquainting. Each time

It’s usually during the day that I find myself on the overpass, but this last trip in July 2019 we found ourselves planted there at dusk. Beautiful. No tripod, rest the camera on the concrete barricade, hold it still

Seligman, AZ, overpass at dusk, 2019 - 120 Portra (6x7)

Seligman, AZ, overpass, 2017 - 120 Delta 100 (6x6)

Hi-Line Motel, Ash Fork, AZ, 2017 - 120 Delta 100 (6x6)

Hi-Line Motel, Ash Fork, AZ, 2019 - 120 Portra (6x7)

Often not much will change about a location. Maybe something has faded a bit more, or the grass is longer, or shorter, or the trees more full, or less so, or you’ll get different clouds, or it’ll be overcast or without clouds, dark, light, or dusk. Or you’ll just move around perhaps a bit differently than the time before and capture the thing from a new position, as was the case with the most recent exposure of the Sandell in Clarendon, Texas, which also includes its reflection in a foreground puddle

But while naturally interested in what may be different about a view with each new landing somewhere, or wanting to see it a bit differently than we did the time before, we simply want to see these things again, because we know them now. If nothing else, they are landmarks, reminders. But the returning to familiar views, there’s something special about it, and it becomes personal. It becomes important somehow. These simple American scenes; this life out there; the odds and ends, the quiet, the strange, the beautiful, and what remains; the lay of the land as it lay, and noticing it, paying it mind, and allowing yourself to be drawn to it, this is the driving force. The curiosity. But admiration, too. And the admiration seems to grow with each new visit somewhere

As I’ve written before, Highway 287 in Texas is one of my favorite and probably most photographed highways. Ken’s Liquor is in Quanah. I first noticed it at night on a road trip in 2016 to Los Angeles, made a few exposures of it with Fuji 3000b peel-apart instant print film. Returned to Ken’s the following year with the old Graflex 4x5 camera while making photographs throughout Texas for what would become my 2018 book A PLAIN VIEW. It was night then, too

And then most recently this summer, during the day. The night photos of Ken’s likely resonate more, I think for obvious reasons, but it was important to me to photograph it during the day, to see its other side and to include that shade of it in the collection

Sandell, Clarendon, TX, Highway 287, 2017 - 4x5 film

Sandell, Clarendon, TX, Highway 287, 2017 - 120 Delta 100 (6x6)

Sandell, Clarendon, TX, Highway 287, 2019 - 120 Portra (6x7)

Inside Sandell, Clarendon, TX, Highway 287, 2017 - 120 Delta 100 (6x6)

Inside Sandell, Clarendon, TX, Highway 287, 2019 - 120 Portra (6x7)

Inside Sandell, Clarendon, TX, Highway 287, 2017 - 120 Delta 100 (6x6)

Inside Sandell, Clarendon, TX, Highway 287, 2019 - 120 Portra (6x7)

Ken’s Liquor, Quanah, TX, Highway 287, 2016 - 3.25x4.25 Fuji 3000b instant film

Ken’s Liquor, Quanah, TX, Highway 287, 2017 - 4x5 film

Ken’s Liquor, Quanah, TX, Highway 287, 2019 - 120 Portra (6x7)

Palace, Childress, TX, Highway 287, 2017 - 4x5 film

Palace, Childress, TX, Highway 287, 2019 - 120 Portra (6x7)

Adult Video, Highway 287, TX, 2017 - 4x5 film

Adult Video no more, Highway 287, TX, 2019 - 120 Portra (6x7)

I.O.O.F. from the Memphis, TX, overpass above Highway 287, 2017 - 120 Delta 100 (6x6)

I.O.O.F. from the Memphis, TX, overpass above Highway 287, 2019 - 120 Portra (6x7)

Grand, Electra, TX, Highway 287, 2017 - 120 Delta 100 (6x6)

Grand, Electra, TX, Highway 287, 2019 - 120 Portra (6x7)

Ford, Amarillo, TX, by way of Highway 287, 2017 - 4x5 film

Ford, Amarillo, TX, by way of Highway 287, 2019 - 120 Portra (6x7)

The last time I’d been through Colorado with camera was 2009

It was on the way back to Los Angeles from Texas

I stopped along Highway 70 to photograph a view of sparsely situated houses off in the distance dividing the highway and the mountains behind them

That stretch west I was accompanied by photographer Jon Beck

And recently, in July, Jon was with me again, 10 years later, but now eastbound from Los Angeles

And it was Jon who’d spotted the houses this time around

I pulled off, turned around, exposed two rolls of Portra, one of Delta

Beautiful overcast a decade ago, a more open sky this time around

Houses off Highway 70, CO, 2009 - 4x5 Polaroid

Houses off Highway 70, CO, 2009 - 35mm

Houses off Highway 70, CO, 2019 - 120 Portra (6x7)

Church / van, CO, 2019 - 120 Delta (6x7)

Church / Tire / Lumber Mart, CO, 2019 - 120 Portra (6x7)

Colorado, 2019 - 120 Delta (6x7)

Rafters, Rio Grande, NM, 2017 - 120 Delta 100 (6x6)

Rafters, Rio Grande, NM, 2019 - 120 Delta (6x7)

Structure and overgrowth, Tucumcari, NM, 2017 - 120 Delta 100 (6x6)

Same structure and overgrowth, Tucumcari, NM, 2019 - 120 Portra (6x7)

Ford, Tucumcari, NM, 2016 - 3.25x4.25 Fuji 3000b instant film

Ford, Tucumcari, NM, 2019 - 120 Portra (6x7)

Old service station, Highway 395, CA, 2006/7 - 8x10 Polaroid 809

Old service station; Revcon RV still present, Highway 395, CA, 2019 - 120 Portra (6x7)

Forgotten cafe, Highway 395, CA, 2019 - 120 Portra (6x7)

*same cafe as seen from the inside in the previous journal entry*

Forgotten cafe, Highway 395, CA, 2006/7 - 8x10 Polaroid 809

When not entering or exiting Los Angeles through Barstow, I go through the California desert by way of Highway 62

Beautiful, interesting geography, structures, people

A bit touristy, busy in places, but ragged, strange, cinematic nonetheless

Undeniably beautiful land

Church, Amboy, CA, 2008/9 - 4x5 Polaroid

Church, Amboy, CA, 2019 - 120 Delta (6x7)

Up the hill from Highway 62 and looking east, CA desert, 2018 - 35mm Portra

Up the hill from Highway 62 and looking east, CA desert, 2019 - 120 Delta (6x7)

Site of house fire; chair remains intact, CA desert, 2019 - 120 Delta (6x7)

Highway 62 from above, CA desert, 2019 - 120 Delta (6x7)

Mobile home park roofline at ground level, CA desert, 2018 - 35mm Portra

Mobile home park roofline at ground level, CA desert, 2019 - 120 Delta (6x7)

Off Highway 62, CA desert, 2018 - 35mm Portra

Off Highway 62, CA desert, 2019 - 120 Delta (6x7)

Fence in parking lot adjacent to the Cabazon Dinosaurs, 2008/9 - 35mm

Same fence in parking lot adjacent to the Cabazon Dinosaurs, 2019 - 120 Delta (6x7)

Cabazon Dinosaur, 2008/9 - 35mm

Cabazon Dinosaur, 2018 - 35mm Portra

Cabazon Dinosaur, 2019 - 120 Delta (6x7)

South of Highway 10, in Cabazon, lay a few interesting stretches of rural road, some houses here and there, abandoned farms and trailers. And from just about every place there is to stand, the spaceship-like Morongo Casino can be seen rearing its ugly head

Strange, appealing little pocket

Morongo Casino from south of Highway 10, 2019 - 120 Delta (6x7)

Morongo Casino from south of Highway 10, 2019 - 120 Delta (6x7)

Morongo Casino / ETERNITY sign from south of Highway 10, 2019 - 120 Delta (6x7)

ETERNITY sign, south of Highway 10, 2008/9 - 35mm

The exposures usually start or stop in Cabazon when going the CA desert route

And so I’ll let this entry stop here, too

Eventually these and more then and now photographs will see themselves on the pages of a book

In the meantime, I will share more here as I collect them …

Jason Lee Comments
Between LA and Texas - PART I

Lone Pine, California, July 13, 2019 - 120 Portra (6x7)

The beginning of roaming by car with camera goes back 13 years now, in California. I’d been experimenting with 8x10 Polaroid films in my Los Angeles studio and figured it might be interesting to take the big peel-apart films out on the road

I went up Highway 395, to start, which is where Lone Pine is, and began making exposures. It was 2006. I’d made pictures here and there in natural settings with smaller cameras and conventional films before that but it was on that first dedicated “photo road trip” with the old 8x10 view camera that the approach to photography that I’ve adhered to since was realized

That first road trip took me around a good portion of California. I made another trip around California with the same camera and films in 2007, and then with 35mm and medium format cameras I began exploring outside of California. In 2009, I covered about 4000 miles between California and Texas, exposing primarily 35mm black-and-white films and a few sheets of 4x5 Polaroid and Fuji peel-apart films

And now, a decade later, I’ve been back and forth between Los Angeles and Texas about a half-dozen times, maybe more

I’ve made it a point to revisit scenes that I’ve photographed before and photograph them again, with an interest in seeing the differences and similarities from the prior time to the present (photographer William Christenberry did this often in rural Alabama. His was some of the first photography I’d seen that uniquely resonated with me)

With multiple formats and both color and black-and-white films I’ve accumulated a good handful of photos of these locations from various periods during that time that I plan to eventually publish in a book

One of the locations I photographed on that first road trip back in 2006 was a forgotten cafe just off 395

In July 14, 2019, on the drive back to Texas from Los Angeles, I stopped at the old place and made new photographs. A lot had changed, mostly in the way of further degradation by time, as well as man’s influence

Being that I primarily go by way of Highway 40 from either Amboy or Barstow when heading east to Texas, taking 395 north this time before heading east meant it had been 13 years since I’d been there

The inside of the cafe as documented in 2006 on 8x10 Polaroid 809 film:

The inside of the cafe as documented July 14, 2019 on 120 Portra 400 film:

On the drive out to Los Angeles from Texas at the beginning of July we took the Highway 40 / Route 66 path, eventually cutting down to Amboy and Twentynine Palms / Joshua Tree / Yucca Valley, Morongo Valley, Cabazon, and then into Los Angeles, choosing to skip the 15 south from Barstow

In 2017 I’d taken roughly the same route with photographer Raymond Molinar on a drive out from Texas

After making our way into California, Ray and I met up with photographer Jon Beck and explored those same desert towns, as well as the Salton Sea area, to wrap up that trip. Met up with Jon again on this most recent trip, and while we explored Highway 62 as Ray and I had done with him two years ago, there was no Salton Sea this time

And now I was with photographer Eric Bouvet and my youngest boy Sonny, out for the first time with a film camera. He’s 7. He was using my Nikon 28ti and exposing rolls of Portra 160 and 400

I wasn’t sure how engaged Sonny would be but he was, absolutely. In the 3.5 days he and Eric and I were on the road, Sonny exposed nearly 8 rolls of film. And he seemed to know what he wanted to point the camera at. A really special experience for me to witness him take so enthusiastically to making pictures

After spending a week or so in Los Angeles, Sonny and I hit the road and headed back to Texas

It was July 13, and this time we were joined by Jon Beck and photographer Steve Reeves, who’d flown to Los Angeles from Dallas to make the trip back with us

Steve and his photographer wife Erin had spent a few days in 2017 tailing me on the road for a short stretch while I was making pictures for A PLAIN VIEW but this was mine and Steve’s first time on a photo road trip together. And mine and Jon’s first trip since 2009, when he joined me for a photo drive from Texas to Los Angeles

Highway 70 snaking its way through a canyon, Utah, on the way back to Texas, July 2019 - 120 Portra (6x7)

I’m pleased we went up 395. Most of the repeat photos have been made in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and the California desert. And so it was nice to revisit 395, see the lay of the land these days. It had been too long. Beautiful stretch of California

From 395 we linked up with Highway 6, moved across Nevada, a first for me. And then Utah and Colorado, two states I hadn’t seen or made photographs in since the westbound trip from Texas with Jon back a decade ago. Down from there through New Mexico and finally southeast once more on Highway 287 from Amarillo, the exit and entry point of these road trips and a favorite highway of mine

Utah along Highway 70 was gorgeous. While ultimately redundant geography, one can’t help feeling compelled to stop often and document the staggering views of such places

Nevada, too, was stunning

Colorado, as well

Before landing in Grand Junction, CO, I was able to re-photograph a scene looking north from Highway 70 that I’d photographed back in 2009 and hadn’t seen since then (sparsely situated houses off in the distance dividing the highway and the mountains behind them)

From Grand Junction we headed south and then east, met up with 285 and then down into Taos, New Mexico, where we stayed a night

Woke up in Taos, ate breakfast, met some photographers at the Mexican eatery, headed south and stopped to see the famous and very well photo-documented San Francisco de Asis Church

Had never been there but had seen Ansel Adams’ and Paul Strand’s pictures of it

One of the reasons I choose to step back whenever possible when photographing something is that I find it vital to show what lay around, or in the way of it (when applicable); the scene of a place, or around something. The whole of it. Or at least a portion of the whole of it. A more objective view. Documenting not only context but the natural contrasts and contradictions that make up much of what and how we see is key for me—not being afraid of presenting reality, or, at the very least, offering an “alternative” view

At a place like this very famous church, most folks are going to be interested in the structure itself. And you can’t blame them; it’s beautiful

But I feel a strong sense of need to show a broader view, a more complete view, and, perhaps, a truer view

This sacred burial ground was surrounded by construction scraps and materials, bright orange construction cones, rundown buildings, innumerable vehicles, and a gift shop. At one point a UPS truck speedily and noisily drove into, around and then out of the plaza, its driver blasting Credence Clearwater Revival and moving about as frivolously as he might be if he were traversing a strip mall parking lot

Even the sacred things, and the beautiful natural things, are being disturbed or disrupted by something, in some way, always

Irony abounds, and it can be sad and it can be humorous. Strange, interesting, odd. Obvious, inconspicuous. But, still, it’s there

Environmental contrast and contradiction; these conflicts, this is where the questions are. And by this I am forever motivated

Gift shop t-shirts hanging in view of San Francisco de Asis Church, July 2019 - 120 Portra (6x7)

On the way out of Texas a few weeks prior we’d missed the light as we neared Amarillo heading northwest, and so I lost out on capturing again a few of the bits and pieces I like to revisit whenever out that way

But now, we had plenty of light, and good light

Since 2017, I’ve photographed the Sandell in Clarendon a few times, in both color and black-and-white

Often not much will change about a location. Maybe something has faded a bit more, or the grass is longer, or shorter, or the trees more full, or less so, or you’ll get different clouds, or it’ll be overcast or without clouds, dark, light, or dusk. Or you’ll just move around perhaps a bit differently than the time before and capture the thing from a new position, as was the case with the most recent exposure of the Sandell in Clarendon, Texas, which also includes its reflection in a foreground puddle

But while naturally interested in what may be different about a view with each new landing somewhere, or wanting to see it a bit differently than we did the time before, we simply want to see these things again, because we know them now. If nothing else, they are landmarks, reminders. But the returning to familiar views, there’s something special about it, and it becomes personal. It becomes important somehow. These simple American scenes; this life out there; the odds and ends, the quiet, the strange, the beautiful, and what remains; the lay of the land as it lay, and noticing it, paying it mind, and allowing yourself to be drawn to it, this is the driving force. The curiosity. But admiration, too. And the admiration seems to grow with each new visit somewhere

Sandell, Clarendon, TX, Highway 287, 2019 - 120 Portra (6x7)

Another productive and enjoyable bit of time on the road, with many more repeat photos added to the growing collection

And with the company of not only some great friends but of my boy Sonny, who will forever have his own film photos to enjoy for years to come

And, according to him, it won’t be his last photo road trip …

Texas highways, July 2019 - 120 Portra (6x7)

Texas, July 2019 - 120 Portra (6x7)

Texas, July 2019 - 120 Portra (6x7)

Colorado, July 2019 - 120 Portra (6x7)

I.O.O.F. from the Memphis, TX, overpass above Highway 287, 2019 - 120 Portra (6x7)

Memphis, TX, July 2019 - 120 Portra (6x7)

Utah, July 2019 - 120 Portra (6x7)

Childress, TX, July 2019 - 120 Portra (6x7)

Colorado, July 2019 - 120 Portra (6x7)

Santa Rosa, NM, July 2019 - 120 Portra (6x7)

Tucumcari, NM, July 2019 - 120 Portra (6x7)

Colorado, July 2019 - 120 Portra (6x7)

Highway 287, Texas, July 2019 - 120 Portra (6x7)

Seligman, AZ, July 2019 - 120 Portra (6x7)

Nevada / Utah border, July 2019 - 120 Portra (6x7)

Another entry to follow that will feature a selection of black-and-white photos from these recent trips, as well as a selection of companion photos from the archives ...

Jason Lee
OK Series Info and Links

Tonkawa, Oklahoma, 2018 - 4x5 TMAX 100

Firstly, a very big thank you to all those who attended the OK series openings at Philbrook Museum of Art

After a year in the making, it was a treat to finally see the 178 prints we selected for the exhibition framed and up on the walls

And to those who have purchased prints from the series, thank you

Exhibition prints are available in three sizes and editions - contact Philbrook

Additionally, each month through February 2020 the museum is offering a special limited edition signed-and-numbered 8.5x11 exhibition print - LINK

These monthly offerings are the only way to acquire prints from the series at a smaller size to what’s being offered at the museum

The July print will be announced and available July 1

Also on view at the museum is a documentary short directed by my son Pilot Lee that features behind-the-scenes footage of the making of the OK series - LINK

A series talk at Philbrook has been scheduled for October 18. Details to come

An official exhibition catalog featuring additional works from the series will be released in 2020

Finally, a few links to some recent articles about the series and exhibition

Some good insight into and photos from the series that have not been seen outside of the exhibition:

Humble Arts Foundation

Tulsa World

Lenscratch

Jason LeeComment