There is a sense of euphoria when first leaving New York and hitting the road. After crossing the Mississippi River going west, everything slows down. The wheels begin to churn and the bottled up thoughts begin to flow. The inner turmoil that seemed enormous appears trivial. Wide vistas pass along the windshield and the mind becomes transfixed. Passing in and out of towns, the townsfolk are curious about the sole traveler. Fleeting encounters of whole lives lived are pondered while driving on.
This is the allure of life on the road as a traveling photographer.
The hardest part is leaving what is comfortable, meeting the unfamiliar, and getting out of the car to take a picture. The capture of a singular moment—as in these photographs—is addictive. It keeps a photographer coming back and moving on.
The two bodies of work here—one of places, the other of people—might well be manifestations of the traveling photographer. I chose photographs from the collection that I identified with: views that I might have seen, people that I might have met, but didn’t. I wish I had.
The places reflect the physical experience of traversing the road: the anonymous towns, the snaking roads, the distant trains, the incessant sky, the grandeur of the open landscape. The people comprise intimate moments and transitory views of lives lived in the worlds that make up who we are in this place, at this time: the enraptured dancer, the jumping cowboy, the painted lady, the fellow traveler, the countless glances.
Each moment in each photograph has its own tale to tell and represents someone’s world—to know, to remember, and, in this digital exhibition, to make your own.
For more than a decade, Victoria Sambunaris (American, born 1964) has traversed the United States equipped with a five-by-seven wooden field camera and sheets of color negative film. Covering seemingly every road and freeway between the coasts and beyond, she has captured the vast American landscape and terrain, and its intersection with civilization. Sambunaris has said that she has “an unrelenting curiosity to understand the American landscape and our place in it.” While humans are in awe of the power of nature, we are also energetic and domineering diggers, builders, and settlers. Sambunaris’s photographs thus strikingly record our ongoing, uneasy relationship with the natural world.
Victoria Sambunaris: Taxonomy of a Landscape originated at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York and was organized by Christie Mazuera Davis, Program Director, Contemporary Art and Public Programs at the Lannan Foundation, and Albright-Knox Curator for the Collection Holly E. Hughes. The MoCP’s presentation and subsequent tour of Victoria Sambunaris: Taxonomy of a Landscape has been generously supported by the Lannan Foundation, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Join us February 7 (5-7pm) for a public reception celebrating this exhibition. The artist will be present at this event.
Join us for First Friday, August 3rd to hear about the artist’s work in her own words - beginning at 6:30pm.
Victoria Sambunaris’ photographs are the product of ten years worth of yearly journeys across America. Her fascination with the American landscape began in her hometown of Lancaster, PA, where Sambunaris was preoccupied with how we, as humans, transform the vastness of the American landscape, by manipulating it and situating ourselves within it.
“I’m trying to convey that it is one: one landscape and one place, although they’re two different countries.” -Victoria Sambunaris