POLAROID PHOTOS from ROUTE 66 CHRISTOPHER J. ROBLESKI
Elk City, Oklahoma
he already burgeoning city of Chicago commissioned Route 66 in 1926. The road began on Jackson Street 85 years ago, but due to the institution of modern-day one-way traffic, the route switched directions. Jackson now acts as the eastward course, its terminus marked with a large “END” Route 66 shield sign. Adams Street sits one block north of Jackson and thus acts as an ad-hoc version of Route 66 for those traveling westward. A “BEGIN” Route 66 shield sign marks the new official starting-point. As workers constructed Route 66 through the city in 1926, Albert Flesch’s shop, Central Camera, sat on Adams just a block away. Three years later the shop moved to its current location on Wabash Avenue near the corner of Jackson Street. For these reasons, I can’t help but connect the over-acentury-old store to the Mother Road. Its proximity to the route is one reason, but another is because they sell The Impossible Project’s Polaroid film, film I’ve purchased over the years, including the Polaroid film I used to shoot Route 66 sites along Jackson and Adams streets. I can’t help but imagine families entering the shop lifetimes ago—before big box stores and online-shopping—searching for the perfect camera before embarking on their grand journey west. Chicago, Illinois
Tucumcari, New Mexico
Gallup, New Mexico
ne summer day back in 2006—before I had any strong interest in Route 66—I stopped at Cermak Plaza in Berwyn, Illinois, after a jaunt to Chicago. I pulled up on a beautiful afternoon, and like many before me, focused on the shish-kabobbed car sculpture that was featured in a famous ’90s film. The legendary structure did not disappoint, but what really impressed me was the entire collection of public art oddities strewn throughout the shopping center. The Bee Tree and the vintage Cermak Plaza Googie-style arrow signs fed my excitement, and brought back memories of the bizarre attractions I saw on vacations in my youth. Sadly, I couldn’t help but notice that some artistic displays were broken, and left to deteriorate and rust. Then, just a year after my visit, the famous and controversial car spindle was torn down to make room for the expansion of a chain store. It saddens me that there are unique pieces of our Americana culture all over the country that are losing the battle to modernization. I refuse to accept that people no longer want to see these curiosities. At any rate, as I traveled through Berwyn that afternoon in 2006, another sign caught my eye: a sign that displayed the classic Route 66 shield. I had no idea I had been smack dab in the middle of a true Route 66 town, but it all made sense. The seed was planted. I knew at that moment that I had to travel Route 66 from beginning to end.
Rancho Cucamonga, California
Santa Monica, California
POLAROID PHOTOS from ROUTE 66
y passion for photography is matched only by my love of road trips. But while exploring America’s roads, I am troubled by how quickly our nostalgic past is fading from the landscape. It is my personal mission to travel this country and capture what still remains, and I have joined the ranks of many who seek to preserve these memories. I selected Polaroid film, which similarly faces extinction, as my medium. Come with me on my photographic journey of America’s Mother Road, Route 66, from a tree covered in shoes to a giant pink elephant to ten cars buried in a field. It’s a road trip that should never be forgotten.