#openskyopenroad – Em Watson

map of US with destination and dates outlined

Hello! My name is Em Watson, and I’m a rising senior. My concentration is called something like “Mapping the Body in Space and Social Meaning,” which links my interests in dance, performance, photography, and design. This summer, I’m going on a photographic road trip exploration of the United States.

This is Carol and Bridget, my road trip companions. They are both photographers as well, and Bridget is a Gallatin alum. (Carol is CAS.)

[This is Carol and Bridget, my road trip companions. They are both photographers as well, and Bridget is a Gallatin alum. (Carol is Steinhardt.)]

My road trip was inspired by a desire to take a photography road trip around the USA, which seems to be a kind of rite of passage for all American documentary photographers. (For some examples of some great road trip photo series, check out Robert Frank’s “The Americans“, Mitch Epstein’s “American Power”,  and pretty much the entirety of this awesome book, “The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip.”) When applying for this grant, some guiding questions emerged for this trip:

Here is a map of our destinations and approximate dates!

[Here is a map of our destinations and approximate dates!]

1) Where do we go, and why? In asking this, I realized that “the great american road trip” tends to be defined by a string of stops in cities with booming arts scenes. In “On The Road,” Kerouac writes about New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Which stops are the most applicable to me and my community, as a young artist today? Austin and Detroit jumped out as important stops, and creating a route along the way, I’ve added Savannah, Miami, Marfa, Memphis, Nashville, Cincinnati, and Chicago, among others.

2) How does an iphone change a (photography) road trip? I will be using instagram to share my experience, using the hashtag #openskyopenroad, and blogging all the time on my website, emwatsonmedia.com/opensky. I hope to use instagram to stay in touch with people that I meet along the way.

I got these cool business cards to leave with people we meet along the way! Made by moo with a very cool square format.

[I got these cool business cards to leave with people we meet along the way! Made by moo with a very cool square format.]

Our hashtag, #openskyopenroad, comes partly from a poem by the poet Rumi, whom I’ve been reading in preparation for my colloquium. This poem, called “Cry Out in Your Weakness,” is a reminder that you should be open to all opportunities, particularly when you are in need of assistance.  One particular line stood out to me: “Let the sky open under your feet.” The spirit of this poem seemed to fit with how I hope to live this road trip. While we have a pretty solid plan, we will stay open to whatever the road has in store along the way.

Follow me on instagram at @emwatsonmedia to see more! I leave August 3rd.

2 thoughts on “#openskyopenroad – Em Watson

  1. Hey Em! Glad to see that you’re finally on your way with your journey. I love how your project is reinterpreting the Great American Road Trip through the use of social media as a voyeuristic lens. Keeping your audience in mind, is there a specific vision or narrative you’re hoping to create—is it an answer to a question? A response to an event? Is your road trip opening a dialogue, or continuing a past one? I hope you can dwell on these questions as you’re cruising down the highway.. Another realization that came to me during my trip was recognizing that traveling alone as a woman (and also of color) would affect my decision making when it came to trusting strangers, being quick to sense danger, etc. Are you hoping to incorporate a feminist lens into your trip?

    I’m looking forward to hearing (and seeing) more! A road trip song recommendation for you is ‘Grease’ by Thee Oh Sees. Have a great time!

  2. Hi Em!
    Sounds like you are having an amazing summer, I’m looking forward to talking to you about it in person in the fall! I love your idea of drawing from the documented journeys of photographers like Robert Frank and utilizing social media to reinvent it, so to speak. Specifically, I am really interested in your question about the ways in which this technology changes the classic “road trip.” You mention that you are using the hashtag to connect to people, and I’d love to hear more about it–in what different ways do you imagine it will connect you further? In what ways do you think (or what have you already found) this hashtag will change the viewer’s perception of your photos? I think the travel element is a very important to this as well. In what ways might the immediacy of sharing your photos online and posting in real time (or close to it) affect the viewer’s feeling of connection to your photos and your travels? Good luck and safe travels!

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