Think of the quirky buildings you pass every day but whose quiet beauty you take for granted—the moviehouses, juke joints, soda fountains, barbershops, roadside diners, and storefront churches. You don’t miss them until they’re gone. As suburban sprawl and strip malls conquer the country, these vestiges of a lost way of life are falling under the wrecking ball. Here the photographer Michael Eastman has made the ultimate road trip, crisscrossing the nation dozens of times, to capture these buildings on film before they vanish. These dreamy images call us to question what we choose to let go in the wake of contemporary life, with a cool melancholy that evokes the work of Edward Hopper, Jack Kerouac, and William Eggleston. There is a wry sense of humor here as well. The book delights in the idiosyncracies of America’s vernacular styles, ranging from Depression Deco to New England clapboard in random juxtapositions that accrue over time in a town’s landscape. Countless visual puns arise among the book’s many detailed images of signs and statuettes. Vanishing America catalogues great everyday American architecture and design. But it also offers a provocative portrait of the silent emptiness that has descended upon vanishing small communities everywhere.
Michael Eastman’s work is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the International Center of Photography, The Art Institute of Chicago, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant and has published two previous books of photography. He lives in St. Louis.
Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: Rizzoli (April 29, 2008)