Yellow, orange & blue ruled the day. And bricks – before and after they get painted white. I really like the ice machine's weathered vinyl letters, they look like cracked pieces of ice.
I'm trying to pull back and take photographs of broader scenes, as in the mill shot and the cityscape. In both examples, the negative shape of the sky is just as important to me as the buildings. I like how one half of the cityscape is dominated by the strong verticals of the columns, water tower and obelisk – while the other half is humble and workaday. Despite their emptiness, I find many of the small towns I visit to be strangely appealing.
Lots of colour today. I'm starting to think I have some kind of obsession with aluminum siding. I like the repetitive nature of the lines, especially when multiple widths and directions are in one image – as seen in the transport truck and butter-coloured building. That photograph is loaded with line patterns, including the grid of the cage.
I was hesitant to post the image of the SUV until I noticed the correlation between the colours of the vehicle and the colours of the buildings. They share a white, black, silver and red palette – one shiny and new, the other faded and distressed. I like when these added surprises emerge in a photograph. The image of Winnie the Pooh flying a plane through a pile of garbage holds no such surprises. WYSIWYG.
Today I enjoyed a short but pleasant drive through Quachita National Forest – it reminded me of the Adirondacks Mountains. What a nice change after spending so many days in flat topography. The weather reports are warning of thunderstorms and possible tornados for tomorrow. I should have known that the sunny days couldn't last forever.
Throughout my explorations of the cities and towns of Oklahoma I've encountered some very handsome architecture – examples of art deco, mid century modern and prairie school. Unfortunately most, if not all, are vacant. Their glory days have come and gone. Even though I'm clearly attracted to the desolation of these downtowns, I would have enjoyed seeing them at their best – when the hotels were full, the boulevards were busy and the local movie theatre's marquee lit up the night.
Plenty of variety today, including a row of plastic-wrapped cotton bales ready for shipping. I had no idea that cotton grew in this part of the USA. I did a double take as I drove by all of the ice machines outside the red and white striped building. Thankfully, the two guys working on a nearby truck paid no attention to me. Typically I don't photograph automobiles, but this one was hard to overlook – especially considering that backdrop.
Even a sign welcoming motorists to Oklahoma has a fantastic patina. You can see hints of the blue paint that once filled the letters and the border. It's my first time visiting Kansas and several of the farms I passed reminded me of the opening scenes of the movie The Wizard of Oz. Speaking of which, many towns have old movie theatres – most of which are either abandoned or repurposed. I keep searching for just the right one to photograph.
Cool temperatures and a bright sun allowed me to shoot a large number of black and white images today. The conditions allow the details to hold up well – as seen in the fine lines of the railway signals and the hydro tower. Once again a collection of colourful buildings presented themselves along the way. Loved coming across the deer monument in the middle of the main street of, where else – White Deer, Texas.
It was a cold, overcast morning and the sun finally started to peak through in the early afternoon. The patchwork of surfaces, textures and tones found in the top photograph divide up the image in such unexpected ways. It is so satisfying to find these existing compositions. And that unforgiving Texan sun – it creates wonderful subtleties of colour.
Reds, rusts and browns were prevalent all day long. For me, Roswell was less about extraterrestrials and more about harsh realities. Patched tin warehouses, empty store windows and messageless sign boards point to once prosperous times. Sorry – no photographs of the countless green aliens that now inhabit the city.
An old service road alongside the thruway offered up some great subject matter first thing this morning. Found another rest stop structure for the growing collection – this one has a particularly nice setting. The field of striking mid-century picnic shelters at White Sands National Monument appear other-worldly, as do many things in the desert. White sand and white tires today.
Over a period of many years, Donald Judd converted the buildings of a former WWII army base into a collective of galleries which house his work and that of other artists whom he admired. The highlight was experiencing Judd's 100 aluminum works exhibited inside the museum's two largest structures. Simply breathtaking. For the remainder of the day I was extra sensitive to objects alongside the highway that were sculptural in nature. Hence the images of the flowering cactus, the discarded oil drums and the skeletal gas sign.
I've reached the southern most destination of my trip – Marfa, Texas – not far from the Mexican border. It's home to several large buildings and acres of land containing sculpture installations by American minimalist Donald Judd. I can see why this city lured him away from NYC – it's remote, peaceful and full of unassuming, simple architecture. A real complement to his work. Enjoyed a lazy day wandering around the town. Tomorrow I'll take a guided, five hour tour of the Judd galleries.
Scattered throughout remote Texas are countless aging oil derrick pumps, oil tanks, fences and billboard towers. Many of which have developed striking weather-beaten patinas. It's as if they are trying to fit in with the haggard landscape. The long lines of railcars I come across are either covered in graffiti or completely pristine – this one had an interloper.
Plenty of unusual colour combinations today. Around midmorning I saw a real roadrunner! What a cool looking bird. Not nearly as big as the cartoon version. As I was photographing the pink feed mill, a pickup truck came screaming towards me in a cloud of dust. Meep, meep! Two security guys jumped out – worried I was up to no good. I introduced myself, we shook hands and they were on their way. I'm not wily, just lucky.
Some days a particular colour will dominate the journey and today it was yellow. Texans like to clad buildings with yellow aluminum siding – why? I'm unsure. Travelling through the scrublands of west Texas, where the ranches are vast, the cattle are plentiful and the roads are virtually empty. And when you do see a vehicle, chances are it's a pickup truck. That's the second rest stop structure that I've photographed – hoping there are more to come. It would be nice if that same species of tree was next to them all.
As I head north towards Wichita Falls the towns are getting smaller, but they're getting more interesting. I happened into a gem of a place called Nocona. It's home to a vintage car museum (140 automobiles), a baseball glove factory (the last in the USA) and a charming inn on the main street. Met a fellow while photographing his freshly completed BBQ smokehouse and was promptly invited to dinner. Enjoyed a spread of chicken fried steak, pork chops and oysters with fourteen locals, including Nocona's mayor. Texans may just be the friendliest people I've ever come across. Thank you Dan, Bob & Kristal – I'll forever remember your generosity.
Within thirty minutes of picking up my rental car, I spotted a tired looking amusement park alongside the freeway. A security guard watched closely as I documented the painted lines of the massive parking lot. Maybe he should have been perched in that strange tower. Across the street was an abandoned furniture store. It too, refused to give up without a fight.
Once again, I'm off travelling the blue highways of the USA. This time I'll be exploring the remote areas of Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma. Look for daily posts of photographs here and/or follow me on INSTAGRAM at bobhambly3133.