Book Review: Somewhere Along the Line
What is more American than driving cross-country along winding backroads? Driving on the interstate, of course. Perhaps it’s not as scenic, but its efficiency is unparalleled. Eisenhower implemented the nationwide infrastructure for unity during the Cold War. What he didn’t see, however, was its power of erasure. America became synonymous with uniform industrial highways, rather than the vast diversity that makes America so remarkable. Photographer Joshua Dudley Greer reclaims these lost facets of the country in his collection Somewhere Along the Line, in which he drove over 100,000 miles of the Interstate from 2011 to 2017.
Immediately, we see a highway sign in classic green, yet the Highway Gothic typeface cowers underneath black tarps. The exit sign becomes futile, serving as a mere projection of utility without living up to its promise. And this disillusionment is just beginning. As we ride alongside Greer, he underscores individual narratives that have been reduced by uniform highways, laying below the shroud. Now, we must examine America’s natural landscapes and the commercialization that built up the nation, yet displaced many of its inhabitants.
Our first stop is along Interstate 5, nearby Grapevine, California. The road mercilessly cuts through mountains, but bends around a small hill as cars flash by. The scene effortlessly exhibits the stark delineation of man and nature while managing to capture its entanglement. We are part of the land that we carved out and paved over, all in the name of industrialism. On Interstate 77 in South Carolina, we get another microcosmic look at how perpetual “progress" afflicts us and our environment. Over two dozen real estate signs accost the surrounding forestry, starkly contrasting with the soothing greens and browns that struggle for our attention.
We then take a trip to Salina, Kansas alongside Interstate 70. Here, we learn that America’s socioeconomic disparity cannot hide beneath the facade of a panacean road. A makeshift billboard stands in the middle of an empty field with the hand-painted message “I NEED A KIDNEY” and a phone number below. The statement reads as a plea, shouting to an audience as barren as its surroundings. So, who was desperate enough to do this? We don’t know, nor do we know if they got their kidney. What we do know, however, is that in between the shining beacons of industrialism are people who cannot even access lifesaving medical care.
Our last stop isn’t a stop at all. Rather, it’s a ride through the diminishing guise of unity, mobility, and progress. Somewhere Along the Line evokes the differences that make America so unique, despite attempts to homogenize it through truck stops and chain restaurants that litter its highways. Greer reminds us that we must look past the monotonous infrastructure that overrides one nation’s drastically differing landscapes. We must look to those who cannot benefit from idyllic roadways that promise merely the desire for progress, rather than a means towards it. One thing is for certain, though: you will never experience a road trip quite like Greer’s.