Welcome to Drive-Ins: Capturing America's Past, a new photography project that will be taking me on a photographic tour across the country this summer to create new narratives for the forgotten drive-in theaters of our past.
Below are some test shots from a recent trip to Hilltop Drive-In located in Joliet, IL
I have fond memories of going to the drive-in theater in my home town of Des Moines, Iowa as a child. Playing tag under the big screen, eating way to much popcorn, and falling asleep midway through the double feature in a pile of blankets in the backseat of our car. I also have a distinct memory from that same time period of an abandoned screen nestled back into the tree line. It took me years of thinking it was merely a badly placed billboard that never had any advertisements on it before I came to understand what it really was, a forgotten relic of another time.
The idea for this project came to me shortly after I assisted local Portland photographer (and my former mentor) Holly Andres on a shoot for NY Times magazine at 99W Drive-In located in Newberg, OR. It was the first time in years I had been to the drive-in and all those feelings of nostalgia started flooding back, followed by a stab of sorrow as I realized that the drive-in for many people isn't the staple of growing up that it was for me. Faced with increasing costs of converting to new digital projectors which cost upwards of $75,000, the few drive-ins that are still operating face the risk of going dark.
Shortly after returning to the drive-in, I embarked on a road trip back to Iowa for a wedding. Along the way we passed an abandoned screen which sparked the memory of the abandoned screen from my childhood. I called a friend to see if the screen was still hidden in the tree line in Iowa and she informed me it was. Sadly, I didn't get to photograph it as we were packing in far to much in a short amount of time already but it dawned on me what I had to do and the beginning idea of Drive-Ins: Capturing America's Past was born.
A few months later, I was heading to Chicago to visit my best friend who had just moved there. I started doing some research and found the Hilltop Drive-In located in Joliet, IL, a short 40 min drive from Chicago. We rented a car, I traveled with a small portion of my photography gear, and we set out to find this abandoned treasure so I could experiment with a few ideas. I didn't bring in models as I will be in my upcoming adventure, instead I tested out a few lighting ideas to help me better understand what will be possible and what I will need for my big adventure this summer. What Hilltop Drive-In did for me was show me that maybe this crazy idea isn't as far fetched as I had thought. It set the fire for me to really make this happen.
So here we are. I am in the process of mapping out locations right now, working on sponsorships, and putting together a Kickstarter to help fund my project. Traveling the country chasing a dream won't be cheap and won't be easy but most things worth doing aren't. It is my hopes in the long run to have the resulting images become a coffee table book, but first things first, I have to get myself in the car and on the open road. This blog will be a tracker of this project from beginning to end and I hope you will all join me for the ride!