The Great American Pilgrimage project was not only about traversing the 3,500 kilometer Appalachian Trail but it was an attempt to visually capture a walk through this landscape. Together with Madrid native and photographer Sonia Ibáñez, we wanted to bring another narrative of the Unites States of America to audiences in Europe through selections of photographs that challenge the viewer to interpret both the concept of landscape and the actual American landscape in different ways.
Other Side(s) of America: LA RUTA de LOS APALACHES
Centro de Interpretación El Molón
Camporrobles, Valencia, Spain | July 2014
These 50 photographs represent Sonia Ibáñez’ expedition along a transect line through America and her encounter with other side(s)–or other possibilities–of a region where slower rhythms and thoughtfulness characterize its sense of place. Hidden in the shadows of the grand United States of American narratives promoted through film, by the media and on the paved tourist circuits, this off the beaten trajectory proposes another America with, perhaps, another ethos. Photography by Sonia Ibáñez. Curated by Kevin S. Fox. Generous support from Kickstarter backers.
I like walking because it is slow, and I suspect that the mind, like the feet, works at about three miles an hour. If this is so, then modern life is moving faster than the speed of thought or thoughtfulness.
―Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking
Other Side(s) of America: LA RUTA de LOS APALACHES represents Sonia Ibáñez’ expedition along a transect line through America and her encounter with other side(s)―or other possibilities―of a region where slower rhythms and thoughtfulness characterize its sense of place. Hidden in the shadows of the grand United States of American narratives promoted through film, by the media and on the paved tourist circuits, this off the beaten trajectory proposes another America with, perhaps, another ethos. This is an other side of America.
Appearing first in European cartographies thanks to the journals and hand-drawn maps of Spanish explorer Alvár Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca, the toponym “Appalachian” was derived from a Native American term meaning, “the other side of the mountain.” I employ the word here rather playfully to suggest that beyond the mountain of discourse there exist other Americas. We attempted to arrive at this place―at once both real and abstract―moving three miles per hour. Walking was our mode of exploration. Engaging the body and mind with the earthly terrain and the conceptual territory of the journey, we sought to comprehend the “genius loci” by enlisting the soles of our feet to measure the rhythms of this place.
Starting in Maine up north and ending five months later in Georgia down south Ibáñez and I followed a dirt path over rocks and roots, uphill and downhill, crossing streams, disappearing into forests, all the while completing about 25 kilometers per day carrying our own packs on our backs. We lugged our food, pumped water from streams, took mid-day rest under shade trees and slept in either shelters or our tent. This line kept us at a distance from the unrelenting grind of the big cities of the east coast and ushered us through small towns few have ever even heard of―Andover, Maine; Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania; Elk Park, North Carolina to name just a few. We encountered bear, moose, deer, racoons, squirrels, snakes, chipmunks and mice along the way. Not to mention hundreds of species of birds along their migration routes. We, too, followed summer as it flowed into autumn―spilling its glorious colors down latitude, marking the yearly cycle with bold reds, oranges and yellows. We stepped into the shallow snows of an early winter before reaching our destination.
I don’t dare call this the most authentic America because these sort of superlatives stifle our opportunity to produce any deeper meaning. This is an America that both Ibáñez and I found important to share. We ask you to consider this as a portrait of that place on the other side of the mountain. The 50 photographs we present here propose our interpretation of the spirit of this place and of this other American trajectory. With both technical skill and the curious eye of a first-time traveler to the region, Ibáñez captures an America moving at three miles an hour.
I hope you enjoy this exhibition of photographs and feel a little of the Appalachian and, thereby, American spirit.
Kevin S. Fox
“La Podología de Machado”
Lavapiés, Madrid, Spain | February 2014
The 138 photos recycle traditional forms of portraiture while proposing the consideration of our feet as cartographic tools. The feet portraits were taken by Sonia Ibáñez while Kevin S. Fox was at rest in each temporary home or “camp” along the Appalachian Trail. Photos were displayed digitally on a rotating basis on a flat screen TV in the storefront window of Espacio Cultural La Victoria.
A Long Walk (2015)