Vacation. Simply defined it is a break, a recess, or time off. After nearly 2 days of driving along the I-95 corridor from Miami to the Jersey Shore to see my parents, I think my Mom also described vacation as "doing something different than you do everyday."
The purpose of this mission, photographically, was to provide an objective photo diary of the summer, summer vacation and “road tripping” in an Americana context. The series was shot with a street photography manifesto from the aspect of capturing real moments from real people. The intention is for the viewer to be able to relive the trip, the season, and the sensation through other’s experiences.
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Perhaps the quintessential vacation for many is no better epitomized than in the “Summer Road-Trip.” The concept is as deeply rooted in the folklore of Americana as fireworks and apple pie. Traipsing between cities like Miami and New York, filled with equal parts of grime and glamor, and being regaled with tales from the 1% of their escapades in St. Barths or Ibiza tend to allow us to forget that this isn’t quite the way most Americans spend their hard-earned vacations. In fact, according to a survey conducted by AAA, over one-third of Americans (35% to be exact) will travel 50 miles plus with their families this year to indulge in the classic family vacation. As such, Los Bandidos decided to “hit the road” for a documentary project that thematically encompasses the grand old American summer road-trip.
First stop? Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, which might better be known colloquially as the “Redneck Riviera.” Collectively, we really had no major preconceptions about “Myrtle” save for some outtakes from HBO’s Eastbound & Down involving Confederate flag boogie boards and canned domestic beers. Reflecting on distant childhood memories, I recalled some girls returning from the ever exotic “Cacklacky” destination with beaded hair, newfound freckles and skin peeling off their sunburnt noses. I vaguely remembered some of their older brothers flashing tie-dye t-shirts emblazoned with Myrtle Beach logos like badges of honor during the first month back at school. A 12-hour drive from NJ, where I grew up, made these summertime escapes comparable to going to battle, as far as a road trip is concerned. That said, Myrtle Beach really might have been Mars for all we cared.
We made our way steadily from the monotony of I-95 through winding low-country backroads where the landscape was marked by blips of churches and nothing and churches and cornfields and nothing and churches for what felt like an eternity until we arrived to the seaside oasis that is Myrtle Beach. We barrelled forward toward our final destination, our vacay abode, the Breakers Resort. Approaching the shoreline, the Breakers’ main tower grows steadily taller in the horizon almost as though you’re heading towards the Emerald Gates of Oz. The seemingly formidable resort is akin to Myrtle Beach’s very own Empire State Building, paling only in comparison to the massive and luminous ferris wheel attraction, the Skywheel, the crown jewel of the Boardwalk just up the block. Bright lights, not so big city.
I won’t inundate the reader with too many takeaways from the experience as it is our belief that our audience’s own experiences, judgements and relation to our photographs is what constitutes the art of the whole thing. Through the lens of our own experiences with family times and vacations, Myrtle Beach certainly was flashback inducing. You couldn’t help but chuckle when you saw slightly irritated siblings stretching their limbs at hotel check-in, ready to wipe the slate clean for the week, despite having fought for the past 7 hours in the car over the ever popular “are we there yet?” pestering. The etching on a pier in Myrtle Beach that reads, “Emma & Carla, Peace & Love, Summer 2016” will inevitably be eroded by the inescapable forces of sun, salt and time. However, the memories leading up to and ensconced in that particular moment that compelled “Emma & Carla” to want to preserve forever defines, to us, exactly “the stuff” that summer vacations are made of.
There were also some things that surprised us a bit. For instance, it appeared that a disproportionate number of parents were chain smoking. While it is no secret that vacation lends itself to hedonism, it seemed to us that the smoking was at best habitual and at worst compulsive. I’ve not delved into the reason for cigarettes being so prevalent (as they will appear in the photos as well) but I would gather that the region has historically been the epicenter of the tobacco industry.
If vacation is in fact, as my Mom had put it, doing something different than the daily in a different context then by all means, Myrtle Beach was the ultimate. If vacation is supposed to be refreshing, I guess we found that too in the little slice of Americana we were witnessing. If we could make a postcard for the town it’d likely star the families; family members wearing matching shirts and displaying striking physical similarities that were especially noticeable to outsiders like us. The adults would be laughing and drinking cold canned beers while the little ones frolicked in one of the overly chlorinated pools that our gem of a resort had to offer. Or it’d feature things that maybe you can’t see, but you can feel -- like a balmy breeze and a first kiss illuminated by the Skywheel’s neon lights as the ocean waves crash into the pier below.
© Los Bandidos del Arte, LLC. 2016. All text & images.