Borough Gallery: The roadside junk you photograph isn’t just trash, but symbols of what you see as systemic cultural destruction.  But your subjects are out there on rural roadways, far from cultural “hubs,” and the people who erected them likely don’t see them as destructive at all.  Why make photographs of these “landmarks”?  What compels you to share your perspective of them?

Diane Gabriel: I agree with your statement.  I do not see these images as photographs of roadside trash, but rather symbols of cultural destruction that I find problematic. Each of these photographs was taken before Shawna invited me to be part of “Entropic Revisited”. I photographed these places exactly because ” the people who erected them likely do not see them as destructive”, but I do – as you can see in the statements which accompany the images. I’m happy to elaborate on these statements if you want me to.

Interestingly, far from being”out there on rural roadways far from cultural ‘hubs'” each image was taken from a major Interstate highway, primarily Route 40 which replaced the older, kitschier Route 66. In fact “The Largest Cross In The Western Hemisphere” is noted in the reference book, “Next Exit.”  “Next Exit” does exactly what its title says it does, listing which gas stations, eateries or Malls, etc. are located at the next exit of each and every Interstate in the United States. The LCWH is one of the few references other than the afore mentioned attractions. Quite a tome in and of itself.

BG: You’re right, I hadn’t thought about how these are not roadside anomalies one only happens across, they are endorsed far and wide as a cultural “must see” for travelers.  And what we must see on our road trips seems increasingly absurd.  In a way, the “biggest holy cross in the western hemisphere” is even more absurd than attractions like “the world’s tallest thermometer” or “largest box of raisins.”  Beyond just destructive, what cultural value do the subjects in your photographs share?  What cultural morals do you see expressed along our highways?

DG:

What the photographs have in common is the wry amusement I feel which makes me want to document these places; it is feeling the despair which I perhaps keep at bay by taking these pictures.

BG: With the ubiquity of cameras, picture taking is an everyday activity.  Many cultural shifts have resulted, some for the seeming worse (like oversharing), others for the seemingly better (the public revelation of Oscar Grant’s homicide, for example).  Do you think this also has an impact on authentic experience?  How is that “highway culture” also a part of your life?

DG: There are different kinds of photographic experiences for me. Taking pictures can sometimes make me  hyper vigilant. I feel as if I am stalking, looking for just that moment when the pieces come together. I like it the feeling and it is exhausting. Photographing on the highway was sheer pleasure. Some of my favorite pictures are “drive bys”. Ha, there are drive by shootings and I do another sort of drive by shot!

I was disappointed there were not more photographs to take. I think that is the highway culture. However, it also allows me the opportunity to see my family in New Mexico, something that would be very difficult without the Interstates.


BG: What is the highest point you’ve ever been?

DG: Is this a literal or figurative highest point?

BG: Is the question too loaded?  Is that high point something you fear publicly revealing?

DG: Actually it is. Remember I am a child o’ the sixties!

See more of Diane Gabriel‘s photographs as part of “Entropic Restructed” at The Borough Gallery, now until May 1st.

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