Ever since cars became affordable, writers, photographers, and artists have journeyed across the United States in search of creative inspiration. From Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Berenice Abbott and William Eggleston, some of photography’s most iconic images have emerged out of the weeks or even months spent cruising through the country’s rocky mountains and dusty deserts – a landscape which continues to be a muse to many artists today.
“I was intrigued to elaborate on this fairly straight-forward narrative that surrounds so many series in this medium,” says Delaney Allen, whose latest book, Red Orange, is a response to “American road trip photography of the past”. Over a two year period, Allen made several trips through California’s deserts, mountains, and lakes, seeking to manipulate the landscape and experiment with familiar tropes on the road.
Using coloured filters over his camera lens, Allen mimics the region’s vibrant sunsets, but also the state’s reputation as a “place of dreams”, where many go to seek stardom. “California can have this ethereal feel,” says Allen, “with those ideas in the back of my mind, I experimented with the color palette. The look, while noticeably manufactured at times, produces a peculiar sensation.”
Allen wanted to incorporate the entire experience of the journey, rather than just the landscape. Inspired by Lucas Blalock’s 2013 book of still-lifes Windows, Mirrors, Tabletops, Allen decided to make his own constructions, and began to collect items from the day’s drive – snack wrappers, fruit and drink bottles, for example – as well as items like mirrors and candles found in thrift and dollar stores.
As Stephen Shore had done in the 1970s, Allen also decided to shoot in his motel room, an iconic part of the narrative of an American road trip. He used improvised lighting from lamps and flashlights to shoot the still-life structures. “I stripped the rooms of a known identity, as I did with many of the landscapes throughout the work,” he says.
“I didn’t want to tell another American West photo story,” says Allen. “Ultimately, this series is an exercise of how I can apply my photographic style in unfamiliar places.”
Red Orange by Delaney Allen is published by Jane & Jeremy