Lauren Greenwald has always preferred to travel at a slow pace. No interstates. No itineraries.
That preference, combined with some timely coincidences, led her on a one-month, 7,000-mile road trip, the result of which is an exhibit of film and still images. The exhibit, Roadside, is in its final day Thursday at McMaster Gallery on the University of South Carolina campus.
Greenwald’s road trip came together when a friend invited her on a camping trip in the Pacific Northwest and her uncle gave her an old Hyundai Sonata that belonged to her grandmother.
“One of the things I’ve always been interested in is landscape and environment, how we move through where we live,” Greenwald said. “I thought, ‘What if I give myself this assignment … to go to these places I’ve never been?’”
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Greenwald, a professor of photography at USC’s School of Art and Design, set off June 30 from Columbia and drove for two weeks before meeting her friend in California July 12. There was no itinerary – she decided each day where the roads would take her. Inspired by one of her favorite books, “Blue Highways” by William Least Heat-Moon, she avoided interstates and explored the back roads of the country.
“There’s this attraction to the monotony of a road trip,” she said.
The old Hyundai Sonata was loaded with her photography equipment – including a pinhole camera – and a makeshift upside-down tripod attached to her passenger-side window. She was unconcerned with getting to know the people she met along the way, or capturing the personality of the communities. This was a solitary endeavor.
“I was very much an observer,” she said.
Greenwald captured hundreds of photos and thousands of minutes of video of the scenic vistas, empty landscapes and abandoned tourist stops outside her dashboard.
Those images and footage were curated into the exhibit, which opened in October and is in its final day Thursday.
Greenwald hopes her collection will capture the interest of other regional galleries. She also sees it as a work-in-progress that will grow as she continues to travel and explore.
“I would like to build on this, to go to other parts of the U.S.,” said Greenwald, who has lived in New England, New Mexico, Europe, and on a boat.
McMaster Gallery is in USC’s School of Visual Art and Design at 1615 Senate St. in downtown Columbia. The gallery is free and open to the public and the hours are 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Bridget Winston, Special to The State