What does it mean to travel? Are we achieving our romantic ideals of interacting with the places we visit and the people we encounter? Last year, local photographer John Ulaszek traveled to Saskatchewan to visually explore the idea of travel, our relationship to place and to the vehicles that move us from one location to another.
The loneliness of these photographs is striking. There are abundant signs of life outside of the car, and the mark of other humans can be seen in every frame, but the viewer is distinctly separated from them by a dirty window. In the image above, the group of people in the balloon are looking right at the viewer, but are faceless and peering towards the vehicle as if it is the spectacle and not the other way around. The civilization outside is unreachable from inside the car.
Increasingly, travel occurs in environmentally sealed boxes providing little to inform of our place in time or space. In just a few generations travel evolved from an adventure where you might die of dysentery to a routine with nothing more memorable than a good groping at the airport. Upon arrival we have only memory distorted by distraction and indifference to mark the passage. As if dreaming we observe but can’t truly interact while the interior of the vehicle provides, like a bed, a comfortable but sensory deprived relationship to the environment. The vehicle becomes a dreamscape where wind is heard but not felt, motion is observed but not experienced.
Ulaszek is not the first photographer to use the inside of a car as the frame for an image. However, his use of color and and the flatness of the world outside the vehicle make his work distinct. He explains, “This ongoing body of work attempts to stop time and capture the dreamlike quality of travel using the vehicle interior in the same way an archeologist might uses a pencil or coin to provide a reference.”
All images were made in Regina, Saskatchewan in 2012. More of Ulaszek’s work can be seen on his website, johnulaszek.com.