The 20th century has been the age of the automobile. And especially in America, the road trip that simultaneously promised escape and self-discovery, that has been a source of enduring inspiration for writers, musicians, filmmakers and photographers. Saul Leiter and Lee Friedlander roamed the streets of New York, capturing magic moments of metropolitan life with their cameras, while Robert Frank famously travelled the US, looking beneath the surface of American life in the 1950s and created one of the most powerful and influential photo books in art history.
Browsing the catalogue for Phillips’ upcoming Photographs auction that is taking place on April 8 in New York, we are once again reminded that there is still no better way to discover a country, its people and essentially yourself, than getting behind the wheel and starting the engine – and how much we miss being on the road ourselves. Just look at the gelatin silver print of George Tice’s Petit's Mobil Station and Watertower, Cherry Hill, New Jersey and you can almost feel the smell of petrol and the chill of the night. Or let Stephen Shore remind you of the timeless appeal of cheap rooms and pancakes for breakfast at a modest highway motel. Soon, we will return to the road and experience all of this again. Until then, the artful photographs carefully curated by Phillips will let you extend the road into your living room.
Photo: Robert Frank 'Covered Car - Long Beach, California' via Phillips