William Eckersley & Alex Shields: US80 Exotic Country

13 Oct 2010 – 13 Nov 2010


London, United Kingdom


Travel Information

  • Aldgate East, Liverpool Street

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U.S. 80, the Southern Pacific, was the first coast-to-coast highway in America, pre-dating even the fabled Route 66. Spanning nearly 3,000 miles, it runs between Savannah, Georgia and San Diego, California and covers an enormous diversity of the American landscape and culture. It sees the rural southlands, scarred by civil war and civil rights; boom towns of Texas enriched with oil surplus; creeping scarcity as scrubland gives way to the western deserts; and a conclusion in the promised land of the Golden State.

The road has been home to both heroes and villains, from Otis Redding to Bonnie and Clyde, to the very wealthiest and the destitute alike. For half its length the Mexican border is a parallel running mate, a first stop for immigrants coming north - however its most significant migrant trade has been the countless Americans from the east seeking a better life in the west. This underpins its importance in the development of a continent and raises it to an iconic status in the mythology of the American Dream. The history of the entire nation, as well as the personal histories of millions of its citizens, is permeated by such a westward expansion and U.S. 80 is a crucial artery in this story.

Since becoming superseded by interstates, large parts of the road have now fallen by the wayside of an improved network, allowing the towns and livelihoods it once supported to fade softly as a forgotten world. U.S. 80 today reveals slices of an unseen America, cutting through epic scenery, small towns and the secrets they hold.

Over the course of three visits between 2008 and 2009, photographers Alexander Shields and William Eckersley have meticulously documented the road and its environs. Using only medium and large format film stock, they have assembled a collection of several hundred photographs portraying a varied landscape and its people.

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