Where in America is Carol M. Highsmith?

You may remember my post from last year,  Is Carol M. Highsmith the Most Generous Artist of Our Time? about the photographer who for nearly twenty years has donated her work and assigned her rights to the Library of Congress, and placed it in the public domain, making it available to the public for their personal, educational, or commercial use all for the price of a credit line.

I’ve been following Highsmith’s blog, America’s Photographer, this spring about her latest project,

21st Century America. My idea was to follow in the footsteps of Dorothea Lange and other WPA photographers and record America – state by state – on high resolution digital cameras during the early 21st Century and donate the images to the Library of Congress.

She began her trek last month, starting with the state of Alabama:

I owe a big Thank You to Sharon Tyson, the Executive Director of the 21st Century America Foundation, Inc. located in Alabama. Her efforts in fund raising have paid off and now we can show the rest of the world how diverse and incredible the state of Alabama is.

If you check her blog, you’ll get an idea of what she is working on. Several of these posts are about her visits to some of the most significant places in the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s, including interior views of Montgomery’s Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church and its parsonage, where Martin Luther King preached and lived, and Birmingham’s Civil Rights Institute.

But today I want to share with you just a few images which I found at the Library of Congress’s Carol M. Highsmith Archive while having a look at the Lot results when I searched 2009. (There are 542 Lots in the Highsmith Archive. Searching “2009” yielded 1,006 unique images. This should give you a clue about the scale of work she has donated.)

The credit line for each of these is: Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

I’ve included the Call Numbers as well to make it easier for you to find them in the Archive, and these will take you to links for two sizes of JPEGs and a TIFF, or something approximate.

Old motels attracted Carol Highsmith’s attention last year. Here’s the Lollipop Motel sign, Wildwood, New Jersey [LC-DIG-highsm-04147]:

And for contrast, consider accommodations old and the new in Las Vegas, Nevada [LC-DIG-highsm-04082 and  04653 (Excalibur Hotel Turrets)] :

She traveled Route 66, the pre-interstate highway opened in 1926 from Chicago to Los Angeles.

The world’s largest rocking chair is in Fanning, Missouri  [LC-DIG-highsm- 04506]. Further on down the road is Pops Restaurant, Route 66, Arcadia, Oklahoma [LC-DIG-highsm- 04496]]

On Route 66 you can stay in the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Arizona [LC-DIG-highsm- 04005] one night and then make tracks for the one in Rialto, California [LC-DIG-highsm- 04462]. Or at least you can look at them — I’m not sure about their availability.

Highsmith’s note says these are:

The brain child of Frank Redford. There were originally seven Wigwam Motels. The wigwams have a steel frame covered with wood, felt and canvas under a cement stucco exterior.

Without cars, there would be no Route 66 (duh!), so it seems as good a place as any for the Cadillac Ranch, which Highsmith describes as a

public art installation and sculpture in Amarillo, Texas, U.S. It was created in 1974 by Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez and Doug Michels, who were a part of the art group Ant Farm, and it consists of what were (when originally installed during 1974) either older running used or junk Cadillac automobiles, representing a number of evolutions of the car line (most notably the birth and death of the defining feature of early Cadillacs; the tail fin) from 1949 to 1963, half-buried nose-first in the ground, at an angle corresponding to that of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. [LC-DIG-highsm-04824]

This is not to be confused with “Cars buried in the ground, Route 66 at Henry’s Rabbit Ranch, Staunton, Illinois” [LC-DIG-highsm- 04510].

Not on Route 66 — or anywhere else, for that matter — is this homage to the automobile: Berwyn car spindle. Highsmith’s photo is dated 8-31-2007, and her description reads:

Spindle was a sculpture created in 1989 by artist Dustin Shuler. It consisted of a 50 foot spike with eight cars impaled on it. From 1989 until its demolition on May 2, 2008, it was located in the parking lot of Cermak Plaza shopping center, at the corner of Cermak Road and Harlem Avenue (Illinois Route 43) in Berwyn, Illinois. [LC-DIG-highsm-04367]

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2 thoughts on “Where in America is Carol M. Highsmith?

  1. What a great way to document the American people and their regional culture! I’m a fan, Ms. Highsmith!

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