During more than 6 years of living as a nomad, I have been on road trips in the USA 5 times. In total I have spent more than 8 months driving around the US. I have lost count of how many miles I have driven, but I think there is a gas station named after me somewhere in New Mexico. I am deeply in love with driving around the spectacular American South West. The freedom of roaming around in a car visiting stunning National Parks and quirky small towns with funky motels speaks to me deeply. You can be in a desert in the morning and on a snowy peak a few hours later. You can meet characters and see all this americana that through cinema was part of mine and many’s childhood. On some days I feel like I could live like this forever in the US. But, there is trouble at the mill as the saying goes.
It is becoming harder and harder to be allowed to enter the US as a tourist and spend a truckload of money. Grotesque but true. “Yes officer, I have been here 5 times, yes I was here for 88 days in 2014 and I spent an enormous amount of money in your country and we are back to do it again now so what exactly is the problem!”. I am sick of the treatment at LAX immigration and the obvious profiling that goes on. Not that other countries are better, I have seen the same in Australia, Denmark, the list goes on. Truth be told, I have the ludicrous luck of having the “right” skin color so I get by easier in any immigration in the world so I don’t know what I am talking about. I can only know how bad it is by seeing it reflected in others, such as my girlfriend Charlene.
Like in Australia where an officer split up people coming through immigration, you either got to go left to exit right away or right for an extra security check. When he learned I traveled with Charlene I was told to follow her to the right. There was not one white person in our long line and as I looked back the officer continued to sort whites from non-whites, no exceptions. Another example I witnessed: a group of 4 Danes in front of us wait in line in 2014 at LAX. They all have Danish passports. They are artists going to Los Angeles to play and record. I overhear them kid each other in Danish about ” haha who will it be today” – they have been here several times before and they know at least one of them will be hauled off for questioning. And yes, one of them instantly gets detained and he yells to the others “hey get my bag guys, it was me this time”. Why? Profiling. They had Danish passports but are all of Middle Eastern descent.
With the evil cartoon character Trump looking like a scarily strong contender for the Republican nomination, I fear for the future of the US. And the world, really. The man is clearly dangerous on a global level, already. US road trips will be a thing of the past for us, but that is the least of it. At least, we will always have the magical Mad and Magic Raving Roadtrip memories, the movie and the pictures and we can just spend our money somewhere else, we are privileged to have that freedom having two of the best passports in the world, Danish and Singaporean. The problem is Donald Trump is so insane he even makes Ted Cruz look almost normal. I have followed American politics for 20+ years and I am in love with the idea of USA. Obviously, people have the right to vote for whomever they want, but I would hope that come election day people will choose a candidate that displays intellect, empathy and political experience. Like most of the world looking in on this, I am stunned and hoping it is a nightmare we can wake up from. That goes for my own country too. The debate about and treatment of immigrants and refugees in Denmark is at times approaching Trump levels.
Back to the 2016 road trip: Charlene and I touched down in LA in mid January 2016 after an excellent Japan Air (highly recommended) flight from Singapore. We spent a few days in Palm Springs before picking up my sister in LAX and embarking on a 2 week epic road trip! Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley, Las Vegas, Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, Saguaro National Park, horseback riding, Slab City, Salvation Mountain and more. Last but not least, we invented our “band” U3 (epic photos here, again, sorry Anton!). Truly, amazing amounts of fun! Despite it being winter, the weather was great for the entire 2 weeks. Even at Grand Canyon, we had a nice warm day (there was snow and ice though, so everyone got the pleasure of seeing me skate around in very slippery boots!). The advantage of winter is almost no tourists anywhere. In Williams, Arizona, we actually had one night where we were the only people in the entire Super 8 motel!
I shoot more freely on road trips in the US than anywhere else. All of these road tripping scenes that unfold in front of me are somehow part of my DNA, so a deep personal connection to what I see means the camera guides itself by instinct. The scenery is naturally cinematic and so is my framing. I am shooting for no one but myself and what follows is a quirky selection of images from 3 fantastic weeks in January 2016, our latest road trip.
I hope there are more US trips to come, but most of all I hope we all stop being so afraid, remember our common humanity and empathy and demand better from our politicians – and ourselves.
The title is of this post is from a Shirley Maclaine quote: “The more I traveled the more I realized that fear makes strangers of people who should be friends.”
All images shot with Fujifilm X-series cameras, mostly X-T1 and a few X-Pro2 images.