All we have to believe with is our senses: the tools we use to perceive the world, our sight, our touch, our memory. If they lie to us, then nothing can be trusted. And even if we do not believe, then still we cannot travel in any other way than the road our senses show us; and we must walk that road to the end.
Lange photographed this stretch of U.S. 54 in southern New Mexico while she was employed by the Farm Security Administration. During the Depression, this highway was the west-bound route taken by many families who hoped to find work in California. Upon discovering conditions no better than those they left behind, they often returned east. In “An American Exodus” (1939), published by Lange and her husband, Paul Taylor, this image is accompanied by an observation made by someone they met in the field: “They keep the road hot a goin’ and a comin’ … They’ve got roamin’ in their head.” In the vernacular terms of the moment or in the timeless terms of the photograph, this picture is clearly an invitation to travel.
U.S. 285, New Mexico,1955 by Robert Frank [also]
Frank asked Jack Kerouac to write the introduction to “The Americans.” Of this photograph, Kerouac wrote: “Long shot of night road arrowing forlorn into immensities and flat of impossible-to-believe America in New Mexico under the prisoner’s moon.”