For the past forty years, my father has traveled around America as a telephone pole salesman.
May the Road Rise to Meet You is a pseudo-documentary of his professional life and a collaboration between father and daughter to create a visual document of the life he has led separate from our shared family experience. In popular mythology, few professions are as emblematic of America as the traveling salesman. As the Internet and outsourcing make this once ubiquitous occupation obsolete, May the Road Rise to Meet You explores the life of a businessman alone on the road. On a larger scale, this project explores the changing nature of “the road” in American culture and in the history of photography. The series begins with my father as a young man in a snapshot taken by my mother in 1981, the year I was born, pulling out of the driveway in his first company car. The images begin in a warm-toned “past” as the camera follows this man from the 1980’s to today. As we move through “time,” we see the colors shift to a cooler palate and this man age before the camera’s eye. In the final image, we see him as an old man sitting on a hotel bed staring out the window after a long day – an entire career on the road compressed into one never-ending business trip.
We were traveling north on I-45 through Texas when I asked my dad what it was like dealing with customers. He told me: “There’s that old saying that you don’t know someone until you walk a few miles in their moccasins.” It was in that spirit that I put myself in my father’s size 10 boots and invite you, the viewer, to do the same. What I found in chasing this enormously elusive male figure is that I can never fully know my father or what it is like to be a man alone on the road. Many of these photographs are my fantasy of what his life on the road looked like. In the same way that a family photo album functions to present an idealized version of a family’s history, these photographs tell the story of how we both want his life on the road to be remembered.
May the Road Rise to Meet You has been published as a book and is available for purchase at – saramacel.com