Eye Candy

The Wild and Wonderful Highways and Byways of the U.S. West

by Jennifer Emerling

You never know who you'll meet on your journey. All photos by Jennifer Emerling.

The open roads in the U.S. West can be beautiful, but also a little weird. And nobody captures America's quirky side better than Jennifer Emerling, one of Fathom's 24 Best Travel Photographers. In her ongoing project, See America First!, Jennifer juxtaposes America's natural beauty against kitschy, artificial roadside attractions — and the people who are attracted to both. She shares with us some of her favorite shots from the series.

USA – When World War I shut down overseas travel in the early 20th century, the railways and national parks teamed up to inspire Americans to plan their next vacation closer to home. Ads were launched combating the idea that only beautiful places existed in foreign countries. This campaign, See America First!, created a national tourism identity and defined the culture of traveling in the American West.

Over two summers, with the spirit of the original campaign at the forefront of my mind, I photographed travelers and people working in the tourism industry throughout the West. What was once pieced together by today's version of the railway system — our scenic highways and byways.

I discovered what used to be our frontier is now a frequently-traveled, highly-saturated landscape sprinkled with folklore and cartoonish roadside attractions. This strange harmony of artificial and natural attractions is unmistakably West: it is a wholly American experience I want to share with those who have yet to feel this rich and undulating tapestry, and those so familiar with it that they can conjure those images in dreams.

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