Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

Portraits From A Cross-Country Road Trip

The first in a month-long series on terrible trips, great journeys and getting lost.

In March, I quit my job in advertising to pursue a career in photography. With no money coming in and gas prices at an all-time high, I decided the timing was perfect for a soul-searching cross-country road trip. For three months I traveled in my FJ Cruiser (a great rig for all the elements, not so great for gas mileage). After a trip to Austin to cover SXSW, my route became a nonsensical zigzag pattern around the western half of the country, the points based on wherever I had a friend to stay with, what the internet said was interesting or whatever struck me that day as worth exploring. I was traveling by myself, and most days were planned the morning-of in a coffee shop. I spent significant time in the West Texas; Moab, Utah; Indio, California; Las Vegas (where my parents live); Los Angeles; and driving up the Pacific Coast Highway. There was talk about making it to Alaska but I’ll have to wait until I quit my next job to do that.

I tried to shoot a portrait every day, and I ultimately shot about 70 portraits of people I met along the way. One reason I chose to do portraits was as a way to force myself to interact with people and situations as I traveled. For this reason, I shot mostly film on an older medium-format camera. The process was slower and it made me take my time with the people I was shooting. I would either just see someone I wanted to shoot or find myself in conversation with someone and I would segue into asking for a portrait. Most people were very receptive. Only a few said no.

Brothers Chris and Ryan. Loggers. Forks, Washington.

Adam. Fly Fisherman. Essex, Montana.

Sylvestre and Tavito. Towaoc, Colorado.

Bunny. Portland, Oregon.

Kirk. Taxidermist. Casper, Wyoming.

Nadine and Kim. Maids. Missoula, Montana.

From left to right, Peter (Engineer, Germany), Henry (Test Pilot, USA) and Massimiliano (Test Director, Italy). Mojave Air and Space Port. Mojave, California.

John. Rancher. Livingston, Montana.

Eric. Preacher. Cortez, Colorado.

Earthship Academy. Tres Piedras, New Mexico.

Viva Las Vegas. Dancer and author. Portland, Oregon.

Ronnie. Packard Plant. Detroit, Michigan.

Ty. Cowboy. Marfa, Texas.

Taylor. Los Angeles, California.

Arlene and Josh. Niland, California.

George. Student. White Sands National Monument, New Mexico.

Tommy and Joe. Inmates. Marfa, Texas.

Shilo and son. Moab, Utah.

Thor. Owner of See See Motorcycles. Portland, Oregon.

Julio. Priest. Chimayo, New Mexico.

Red. Slab City, California.

Angel. Cook. Slab City, California.

Zach and Bambi. Kalispell, Montana.

George. Pearl Jam Equipment Manager. Seattle, Washington.

Roger Kisby is an editorial and portrait photographer who lives in Brooklyn. You can see more road trip photos at his Tumblr and on Instagram. You can also follow him on twitter.

17 Comments / Post A Comment

hershmire (#233,671)

These are great shots. Who was your favorite person to talk to? Did you give them copies?

fb574920322 (#235,476)

@hershmire good question. Red from Slab City had a lot to tell me about life. He grew up in the dust bowl during The Depression and has seen a thing or two. I'm in the process of sending out shots to everyone. Tommy and Joe, the inmates, asked me to send copies of the images to their moms.

Gorgeous work, man. You mind nerding out with us for a moment about your equipment?

fb574920322 (#235,476)

@Marcus Estes@twitter Sure. I was using an older Mamiya C330 twin lens reflex camera, light meter and a tripod at times. I got it used and had some trouble with throughout the trip. There were some unexposed rolls here and there but for the most part things worked out.

kilgub (#7,768)

@fb574920322 Another nerdy photo question: what kind of film did you use? It looks like Kodak Portra, but the saturation seems a little more pronounced.

Great composition to the shots, but you also really got some terrific expressions. Bravo!

fb574920322 (#235,476)

@kilgub You got it. For the most part I shot film on Kodak Portra. After scanning them in I did some post work. If you're interested here is a full gallery on my site. http://rogerkisby.com/road-trip- Its 90% film and the rest is digital.

These are really good! Red looks like he's about 8,000 years old!

And the Towaoc and Cortez pictures give me serious SW Colorado flashbacks. Those landscapes are burned in my brain.

Annie K. (#3,563)

@Reginal T. Squirge And the way Red's holding his cigarette — serious flashbacks on that one too. Rose, an old crippled up cook from New Orleans. I loved watching her smoke.

iantenna (#5,160)

i think i'm in love with nadine.

jfruh (#713)

@iantenna YES! Nadine and Kim need an HBO series, stat.

Annie K. (#3,563)

@jfruh I'd watch the hell out of that series.

This is outstanding. I want to talk to Ty. And the dog.

Rick Paulas (#1,565)

Am I wrong in thinking that Red is the same Red that was one of the three stories focused on in Alma Har'el's amazing documentary "Bombay Beach"? (NOW AVAILABLE ON NETFLIX INSTANT!)

fb574920322 (#235,476)

@Rick Paulas Yeah, thats one of the stories he told me about when we talked. I hadn't heard of the film until I talked with Red. He pulled out a framed picture he had of him and Alma.

byronryder (#244,252)

After looking at the pictures you posted I realized you had a very interesting trip and met a lot of nice people. I always make sure to check the email updates when I have to make a business trip, I make a lot of photos during the trips and post them on Tumblr when I get home.

mughal12 (#245,016)

I made this tonight. It was fecking delicious! Just like Grandma used to make. Grandma was no fig faced, shaved truffle muncher.Rugby shirts

Mark Telooet (#260,469)

My cross country road trip from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles. This time I decided to take the southern route instead of climbing over the Rockies. Jugen — a silent man on the internet.

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