‘Autolandscapes’, Photos of America Seen from a Moving Car Window

Los Angeles, 1976 freeway
Los Angeles, 1976

Elaine Mayes is both a successful practitioner of photography as well as a renowned educator on the craft. She is one of the first women teachers of photography, acquiring her knowledge of the skill in art school. Her influence in the discipline has been noteworthy, cutting across and influencing many generations. Mayes work from her pivotal Autolandscapes series will be on exhibit beginning this summer until January 2014 at the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum. It will be on display along with the works of Steve Fitch and Robbert Flick.

Springfield, 1972 train station
Springfield, 1972

As an American original, Mayes work alludes to no “school.” It belongs however to six decades. Autolandscapes from 1971, for instance was born out of a trip she made with her husband along with four feline pets as they traveled to a teaching job she had gotten at Hampshire. There she would join Jerome Liebling as part of the founding faculty at Hampshire College. The cross country trip provided the images she would shoot as she documented their voyage.   The collective series is a snapshot of seventies Americana, replete with cars, homes, gas stations and other road trip imagery. It is a firsthand view from Mayes’ perspective as she saw the American cultural landscape of the era from the seat of her car.

Utah, 1971 greyhound bus
Utah, 1971

Autolandscapes that will on exhibit in Washington D.C. will be made up of photos that are an ongoing series Mayes started in the 1960s when she moved to teach photography in the University of Minnesota.   The images that will be viewed in this gallery are a work in progress that continues till this day. Evident in the series is Mayes intense interest in photos that have an enigmatic quality. Her images contain scenes that are expansive, and yet the minutest details are sharp and clearly visible.  Mayes has described her photographs as “responding [to her environment], but not knowing why.”

landing pad gas station 1976
Landing Pad, 1976

The collective works of the three prolific artists is called, Landscapes in Passing: Photographs by Steve Fitch, Robbert Flick and Elaine Mayes, at the American Art Museum in Washington D.C.

Visit her website to view her work that “encompasses documentary, poetic and conceptual approaches.”

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Patricia Ramos

Patricia Ramos

I am a freelance photographer who is no stranger to smudged lenses, long hours in front of the computer, heavy camera bags (and the back aches that ensued) and missing lens caps. If you know what I'm talking about, you probably have as much love and passion for photography as I do.