Route 66 by Chelsea Darter

Issue 102

Once a major path for western migration taken by families displaced by the dustbowl to a postwar route traveled by thousands bound for Southern California’s suburban idyll, Route 66 was a tangible representation of class mobility. The epitome of American road trips, the 2,400-mile stretch from Chicago to Los Angeles winded through the heart of the country offering a distinct kitsch personality and promised the excitement of unpredictability.

The Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 brought a slow decline to the route as interstate highways bypassed Route 66 section by section until its official decommission in 1985. Now only segments of the historic road remain, and the many stops along the way sit vacant or exist in a perpetual state of decline, their livelihood dependent on nostalgic travelers longing for a bygone era.

Following in the photographic tradition of the American westward journey I set out to investigate what remains of the mythical “Mother Road” and the vestigial American Dream. This project seeks to make a connection between the decline of an American icon and national nostalgia. Coupled with a clichéd photographic tradition I question today’s myth of the journey West and whether this ingrained ideal holds present validity in my generation.

Chelsea Darter lives and works in Chicago, Illinois.
To view more of Chelsea's work, please visit her website.

 Cabazon Dinosaurs, Cabazon, CA

Cabazon Dinosaurs, Cabazon, CA

 
 Grand Canyon, South Rim, AZ

Grand Canyon, South Rim, AZ

 
 Harley, Sandhills Curiosity Shop, Erick, OK

Harley, Sandhills Curiosity Shop, Erick, OK

 Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, Groom, TX

Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, Groom, TX

 
 Old Route 66 Holbrook, AZ

Old Route 66 Holbrook, AZ

 
 Guardian Lion, Amboy, CA

Guardian Lion, Amboy, CA

 
 Curt at the Golden Light Cantina, Amarillo, TX

Curt at the Golden Light Cantina, Amarillo, TX

 
 Meramec Caverns #3, Sullivan, MO

Meramec Caverns #3, Sullivan, MO

 
 Nuns at Ted Drewes, St. Louis, MO

Nuns at Ted Drewes, St. Louis, MO

 
 Cherokee Trading Post, Calumet, OK

Cherokee Trading Post, Calumet, OK

 
 Along Route 44, Near Tulsa, OK

Along Route 44, Near Tulsa, OK

 
 Harley, Sandhills Curiosity Shop, Erick, OK

Harley, Sandhills Curiosity Shop, Erick, OK

 
 Cemetery, Albuquerque, NM

Cemetery, Albuquerque, NM

 
 Mt Sandia, Albuquerque, NM

Mt Sandia, Albuquerque, NM

 
 Jesse James Wax Museum, Stanton, MO

Jesse James Wax Museum, Stanton, MO

 
 Lux Bus outside Delgadillo’s Route 66 Gift Shop, Seligman, AZ

Lux Bus outside Delgadillo’s Route 66 Gift Shop, Seligman, AZ