The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip
Curated by David Campany and Denise Wolff


Installation shots from Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR are thanks to Stephen Ironside

Photographs by Robert Frank, Ed Ruscha, Inge Morath, Garry Winogrand, Joel Meyerowitz, William Eggleston, Lee Friedlander, Jacob Holdt, Stephen Shore, Bernard Plossu, Victor Burgin, Joel Sternfeld, Alec Soth, Todd Hido, Ryan McGinley, Justine Kurland, and Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs.

“What should happen at the end of a road trip? A return to the status quo? A revolutionary new beginning? A few minor adjustments to one’s outlook? Obviously it is not enough to drive West and arrive in the Promised Land . . .”
—David Campany, “A Short History of the Long Road”

After World War II, the American road trip began appearing prominently in literature, music, movies, and photography. While the myth of the American frontier had long engaged artists, and key photographers such as Walker Evans and Edward Weston made seminal trips through America in the 1930s and 1940s, many more photographers purposefully embarked on trips during the post-World War II era in order to create work about America or better understand their place in it.
The Open Road considers the photographic road trip, from Robert Frank—whose 1955 road trip resulted in The Americans (1958)—to present day, as a genre in and of itself. This is the first exhibition and book to explore the story of the American photographic road trip—one of the most distinct, important, and appealing themes of the medium. The exhibition presents the story of nineteen photographers for whom the American road was muse. Presented in chronological order, the featured artists and road trips represent the evolution of American car culture, the idea of the open road, and how photographers embraced the subject of America in order reflect on place, time, and self.

Curator David Campany is one of the best-known and most accessible writers on photography. His books include Walker Evans: The Magazine Work (2013), Jeff Wall: Picture for Women (2011), Photography and Cinema (2008), and Art and Photography (2003). His essays have appeared in numerous books and he contributes regularly to Aperture, Frieze, Photoworks, and Oxford Art Journal. Campany lives and works in London, where he is a reader in photography at the University of Westminster.

Denise Wolff is senior editor at Aperture and is known for her work with both contemporary and historic photography. Prior to Aperture, she was the commissioning editor for photography at Phaidon Press. Throughout her career, she has had the opportunity to work on many beautiful books, including monographs with such established photographers as Roger Ballen, Mary Ellen Mark, Martin Parr, and Stephen Shore, as well as first books, retrospectives, and large survey anthologies on a variety of subjects—from portraiture to photographic albums.

This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.  NEA-logo

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The exhibition includes approximately one hundred framed photographs in various sizes, a slide show of “America Pictures” by Jacob Holdt, and items to be displayed in a vitrine. Vintage photographs are subject to both availability and facility report approval.

Estimated Linear Footage:

Teacher resource available for download:
Open Road Teacher Resource
This free teacher resource is intended to inform educators about the exhibition The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip, so they are better able to lead students of all ages in meaningful discussions surrounding its content. For more information about Aperture’s educational resources contact

Related Publication:
The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip
10 x 11 1/2 in. (25.4 x 29.21 cm)
336 pages
300 duotone and four-color images
Hardcover with jacket
September 2014

Participation Fee:
Please call Annette Booth, director of exhibitions management at (212) 946-7128 for rental fee.
The host venue is responsible for pro-rated shipping and insurance.

2015 through 2019


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