Tuesday, August 3, 2010
50 Years After Travels With Charley
Packing his camera and an open mind, Randy Wells takes us on a road trip to rediscover Steinbeck’s America
In 1960, at age 58, Steinbeck began his great American road trip accompanied by his French poodle Charley. He drove a camper truck from Long Island, N.Y., to Seattle, Wash., then south to Monterey, Calif., and back to his Sag Harbor, N.Y., home via Texas and Louisiana—all in the space of less than three months. Eager to discover my own America, I began to retrace Steinbeck’s route and experience the landscapes and people who had inspired the Nobel Laureate.
It wasn’t long before I realized that his epic journey would celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2010, and that Travels with Charley would have its semi-centennial celebration in 2012. So I began the process of gathering the images I’d need to complement the famous American author’s impressions and give his book a new life. Environmentally aware before it was politically correct, Steinbeck immersed himself in the beauty of the land and observed that its resources were rapidly disappearing. I believed that Travels with Charley was prophetic of the challenges we still face today and that its popularity confirmed the universal themes it personified: the hero’s journey and the adventures of an individual in search of self.
Life on the road taught me that planning for a photographic trip is a compromise. Take too much gear, and you’ll be weighed down, constantly trying to choose just the right lens or accessory. Take too little, and you feel like you’re always missing something. As outdoor photographers, we convince ourselves that we must always be ready for whatever a location may throw at us. But working with the minimum amount of equipment can pay off in the long run, especially when conserving energy and concentrating on capturing storytelling moments that avoid the cliché are your goals.
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