This summer I took a number of road trips across the continental United States. I drove over 20,000 miles mostly along Interstate-80 and on various highways and dirt roads that branch off and away from it. I followed the old Lincoln Highway and pieces of the Oregon and Mormon trails. I followed the settlements that followed the mountains and game trails and most other migrations. East to west. I shot 150 rolls of film and developed them along the way in campsites and cheap motels. It was a wonderful experience and one that I was lucky to have.
These are some of the photographs I took along the way. I only brought black & white film with me, so it was nice to also have a digital camera for those small moments I wanted to preserve. An old Amish homestead in Wyoming. Carhenge, Nebraska. The carvings at Worden’s Ledges. The Great Salt Lake and the Canyonlands of Utah. Vast expanses of deserts and plains. The grandness and diversity and beauty of the land is hard to overstate, in all of its natural and manmade forms. I just wanted to share a few of these scenes. They aren’t meant to be precious or profound, but they’re still well worth hitting the road for.
I barely recognized my apartment when I walked through the door three days ago. It felt more like walking into an old memory jogged loose. I was away for nearly 8 months, and being back is a bit jarring. Even after two weeks in state quarantine, it feels like I’m being eased into an older, forgotten life. And I’m still getting used to it.
I spent the better part of this year living an alternate reality and I’m still trying to remember everything I forgot about this one. There are books on my shelves I don’t remember buying. My refrigerator feels smaller. I can’t find things in the kitchen. Are these even my bedsheets? Where did I put all my Polaroids? There’s dust on the tabletops and even my hardiest succulents have given up their ghosts. I imagine some archeological digs are less confusing.
That being said, it’s nice to be back in Bangkok. It’s one small step toward normalcy, regardless of where the next steps may lead. I’m still gathering most of my thoughts, but I wanted to post something about being home. Or home-ish. It’s harder to tell these days.
These photographs were all taken before I left at the start of this year. But they feel a lot older than that now. Time capsules. Old memories jogged loose. So it goes.
Earlier this year, I traveled to the little-known province of Buriram, in northeastern Thailand. It’s a quiet, rural region residing on the Khorat Plateau–largely featureless and dusty, with cool morning air and a sun that sets golden and warm each evening. A thousand years ago, Buriram was the far reach of the Khmer empire, and several well-kept ruins–including Phanom Rung, on the edge of an extinct volcano–serve as reminders of its rich past.
We were there on a magazine assignment that fell dead in the water once the pandemic hit, though we had no way of knowing it at the time. We spent a week hovering around the main town and the Cambodian border, where most of the ruins are located. It was tough to photograph, and I imagine even tougher to write about, because it’s a place where nothing really happens. A few golden buddhas. An occasional monk in the forest. Lots of gold-flecked statues. A night market that felt sleepy by 8pm.
That isn’t to say it was unlovely. It may be the only place in the world where you can stroll through the preserved, sprawling ruins of an ancient empire utterly alone. We explored forest temples and countless crisscrossing streets in the town proper. We never found much, but in hindsight, maybe that was never the point. It was a strange and prescient place to be just before the world inverted itself.
I like to think it’s alone in being largely unchanged in the world, but I’m sure that’s not entirely true. The pandemic has touched everyone and everywhere, even the remote corners of the world where places like Buriram thrive. Things I found boring at the time are turning more beautiful, and Buriram stands as testament to a way of thinking I should return to. It was an intimate and privileged glimpse into a place not many people will get to see for a long while longer. Maybe it wasn’t much, but it was generous in its way. It just took me a while to see it.
I’ve spent more time recently moving back to films in a continued effort to slow down and consider what I’m doing instead of just spraying thousands of frames and editing to get the best of the bunch. I don’t post as much as I used to because I haven’t been shooting outside of assignments for a while now. But I’m slowly getting back there, and it’s a nice path. I’m just trying to figure out how to navigate it in my own way. Without guideposts or hashtags. Digging into the crevices. Finding what’s left of what used to be a very tactile medium. Here are a few Polaroids from a recent fashion shoot with Sula Clothing in the UK just outside of Brighton. The sun was warm and the barley fields were swaying lovingly in the wind. The clothes were gorgeous and the model was amazing and for a few days there everything was right with the world.
Just a few quick Polaroids from a motorbike trip into the mountains of northern Vietnam near Pu Luong national park, a few hours southwest of Hanoi. A simple, soul-affirming kind of drive along small dirt roads and over rickety bridges and chaotic highways. It was a wonderful way to end over a month of assignments that took me across Japan, China, Hong Kong, and Vietnam. More to come once my film gets developed. So for now.