Growing up, I remember spending weekends throughout the year, and long weeks sometimes in the summer, spending time with my grandmother in Georgia engaged in long conversations over cards and board games about the family. My mother's side of the family is quite large and they were always getting together. My grandmother was the oldest of four and each one of them had at least two to four children, four in her case. I grew up listening to Grandma’s stories about family reunions and family road trips. My grandfather was originally from Texas so they would often spend time whenever he was stationed in the U.S., particularly in Georgia, driving the family station wagon back and forth between Texas and Augusta

They would load all the kids in the station wagon and take turns who got to lay in the floorboard and stretch out their legs some. There was always a sense of closeness on my mom’s side of the family; Grandma always called and spoke to everyone at least once a week.
            Being a nosey child, the old photographs from our family albums always fascinated me. My grandmother was always the one for a little bit of eccentricity; she was known for her large, shapely, “extra” wigs and was very rarely seen without one or without her hair fixed to the nines. Even after she stopped wearing wigs, her hair was always fixed with a perm. After her second stroke, she couldn’t do her hair anymore, which was really hard for her to accept, even if it meant easier maintenance to have it cut short; she never wanted to let the ‘60s hair die. Hearing those stories and looking at those photographs growing up shaped my fascination with how the family unit looked in the ‘60s compared to now.

I’ve always grappled with the idea of where I fit into this play of a family unit. Families went from having four to five kids to typically having one or two. My dad was one of five, my parents had just two kids, and I don't plan on having any of my own. It just commonly went down to two, I guess because of many different factors—it was more economical, women became more than just stay at home, life became busier, etc. When you look at the kind of life that I live, my truth, and if you were to place it in the time that my mother grew up in, and that my grandmother raised her children in and was even raised in herself, you wouldn't find someone like myself living out their truth publicly. Perhaps in secret, passing as just roommates, but the idea of only living your life openly behind closed doors. So it’s fascinating to me to watch how the times from the ‘60s have progressed to now and how this all really started changing in civil rights and equality

Watching that change over time from the '60s to now, we really are quite fortunate in many aspects that we can all live our individual truths.           

            When we look at how different companies have catered to the family unit over the years, including the commercialization of photography, we don't think twice about the way that it is presented to us. In the 1960s, Kodak was one of the first to mass-produce for family consumption with somewhat affordable cameras but still, not everyone had one. Advertisements filled the commercial scene with the predominately heterosexual nuclear family—man, woman, child/children and white picket fence—spread across the newsstands, television, magazines, and other printed publications, all excitedly capturing their special moments.  Considering the cost of film, and the cost to develop it, families were specific with the things they would take pictures of; they wanted to see attractions, they wanted to see things they didn’t get to see every day, they wanted to remember each other as they were. There is something to be said about the use of different mediums throughout this project using medium formats, the 35 mm, the 8 mm, and looking at bridging that with digital and eventually with drone footage or regular iPhone photographs through the use of Instagram.

Changing Cameras Again...

Watching this gap being bridged and thinking about selectiveness and finding the things that “wow” us the most helps us remember to treasure the “wows.” It's interesting to see that this idea/concept is making a comeback as people have started to re-embrace the family and are trying to get back to the sense of things. Eventually, everything runs in a cycle and comes back to you but with a strong sense of nostalgia. We look at marketing and advertisement images on the back of things like ‘60s maps and you have the typical configuration of a man, woman, dog, and child, and the suitcases loaded up in the car. The man is asking for directions and the woman is sitting with the child in the car, waiting, both doing their designated "duties." We don’t necessarily fit those norms anymore; we’ve outgrown them, but we’ve recontextualized what that family unit looks like with every decade since.
              This project is unique in its ability to recontextualize these advertisements, reconfigure the imagery, and rethink the model to suit what is being done here. Even still, there are folks and areas that have not changed and are not open or receptive to this new wave. 

Despite that, I find it fascinating that something like a Corvair can just bring people together. They want to talk to you everywhere you go, they smile when they see you, they want to have a conversation and they don't think twice that it’s two guys and a dog. They see a family driving around enjoying the time together. It's interesting the way people refer to the two of you, i.e. “your friend,” “your pal,” “your buddy,” “your partner;” it's proof of a generational gap and how the generations have changed. People can’t help but be sent back to that sense of nostalgia of the family photos of the ’60s and reminded of different times; how there's both good things and things to learn/grow from.
               We kind of hear the saying that “those were simpler times,” but with every time it's true that we can say that though it may seem simpler in terms of limited technology and the kinds of things you saw on television or the kinds of things you heard in music, it still came with its own set of challenges and painful growth that happens with every decade. With this project, I aim to explore that, and I want to explore the freedom and ability in this country to be two guys, a dog, and a 1960 Corvair driving cross-country together openly. Families gather around the table, and in the same fashion on the road. The interstate was one of those things that cut out the middleman and helped bring everyone together by making it easier to do so. Unfortunately, now it's all about how fast you can get there, less about the journey so it almost comes as a sense of relief to be able to disconnect, get lost, explore forgotten paths, and have an experience. The idea of spending time together, doing something, and seeing something different; getting out from behind the screen and taking it back to a sense of simplicity is really important for this project.

Gallery Road Map Postcard Overlay Versio

Cherokee Foothills Scenic Hwy, SC  -  2019

Taking the Ferry to South Port, NC - 2019

© 2019 by Robert S. Rose. All rights reserved by the artist including photographs and imagery used throughout.

A photographic project by artist Robert Rose that takes a look at how America in various aspects, has changed since the 1960s.
Two guys, a dog, and a 1960 Corvair rediscovering, redefining, and understanding what it means to have an American dream in the twenty-first century.