Recently I came across a beautiful photo documentary of Ryann Ford, who documented American roadside rest stops.
“For the past 53 years, rest stops have given us rest, relief, hospitality and nostalgia. They have been an oasis of green to walk your dog, have a picnic, study the map. For some, what was seen and read at rest stops could be all that was known of a region’s historical, archeological, geological, or cultural significance. Many people these days only know of rest stops as a blur from the car window. Many don’t know the historical significance of these quirky little roadside relics,” explains Ryann.
Ryann Ford aims to systematically document these places before they are gone forever. Fast-food restaurants have homogenized the nation’s highways to the point where every place looks like every other place. They are more than just a place providing service to the public, they represent uniqueness in a world headed toward commercialization. Rest areas connect travelers to local places in a way that fast food restaurants, gas stations and truck stops cannot. Interchange business, while also important to highway motorists, has become a homogenous collection of uniform structures that one encounters without significant variation in almost every part of the country.
While rest areas were originally designed to provide only the basic amenities of parking, bathroom, and picnic table, developers soon found within them the opportunity to reconnect people with the places they were traveling though, to add some humanity back to interstate travel.
We can all relate to rest stops and what they represent as social and architectural icons of Americana. To Ryan though, they are disappearing waysides of memories, anticipation and mystery of what the next one down the road will look like, and lastly they are a relevant benchmark in an era of bygone leisure travel. This project is an ongoing road trip of discovery and appreciation for what these rest stops represent. He wants to show how each rest stop is different and what it may have to offer, whether it is historical significance, charm, local color, or unique architecture.