The Great Northwest

I have a new project that I am very excited about called “The Great Northwest.”  A few years ago I found an amazing scrap-book that was made by four middle-aged single women from Seattle who went on an epic road-trip through the Pacific Northwest in 1958. They drove over 3,200 miles, through Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Oregon, taking photos and collecting postcards, brochures, menus, receipts, and all sorts of ephemera- all of which they carefully arranged in this scrap book at the completion of their journey.

“The Great Northwest” is a 76 minute experimental documentary and photo-series that chronicles my attempt at re-creating their road-trip.  I spent over a month on the road, following their route as closely as possible, and attempted to find and document every stop that they had documented. Here is a short excerpt that follows the women’s adventures in Yellowstone National Park.

There have obviously been many big changes since the ladies made their road trip, but at the same time much seems relatively intact. The most obvious and immediate change to have hit the natural landscape is the addition of the Interstate Highway System, as I-90, I-84, and I-5 have essentially carved out three new massive rivers through the region. Urban centers such as Seattle, Portland, and Spokane have sprouted sky-scrappers and hefty suburban growth, while other towns such as Vantage and Taft no longer exist at all; one being flooded by Columbia River damming and the other paved over by Interstate 90. But while many towns have experienced massive change, carefully preserved towns such as Wallace, Idaho, and steadfast tourist attractions such as the Oregon Coast’s Sea Lion Caves seem almost stuck in time except for perhaps a few new layers of paint.

This was a really fun project to work on. If nothing else it broadened my understanding of this region and made me ever more proud to call the Pacific Northwest home. My hope is that I have helped preserve and expand upon an important historical document. The scrapbook is a time capsule- it is evidence of memories that remind us how fragile history is. I think my ultimate ‘dream’ with this project would be to have someone re-recreate it in another 50 years.

I am often asked if I ever found the women who originally made the scrap-book, and I have to admit that I did a bit of looking around, but after finding death records for two of them I decided it was better to just leave it be. The scrapbook is full of mystery, and not all of it needs to be solved.

The Great Northwest will be on display in Portland at the Elizabeth Leach Gallery through April 2nd. The Project was made possible by generous grants from The Regional Arts and Culture Council and the Oregon Media Arts Fellowship. More info about the project can also be found on my website at www.rodeofilmco.com

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