New American Nomads

No Mosque on Ground Zero. Escalante, UT 2010 ©David Gardner

We are busily packing up the motorhome for our latest road trip. This one is a bit different from most of the others we have taken in the past five years. The destination, Quartzsite Arizona, is the home of the largest RV rally in the world. In January and February, the tiny town of 3000 year round residents, balloons to hundreds of thousands of travelers from all over the country and beyond. It is said that over a million people will come through in those two months. Most everyone camps in the abundant but rather primitive BLM lands that surround the town.

This would usually not be the kind of event that would attract me, but my newest photography project is making it a must do destination. New American Nomads is to be about those who travel full-time in their RV’s. It will be about the places they go and the things they do, but mostly about the people themselves. I’ve seen a number of projects that deal with this subject in one way or another, (see Stephen Chalmers) but usually the perspective is more slanted to the down and out, disaffected, or otherwise indigent and transient population. I am more interested in those who have made a thoughtful choice to abandon their brick and stick home for wheels and the road. These people are still actively engaged in living their lives and roam the country embracing what they find. Quartzsite seems to me to be a once a year “gathering of the tribes” – hence the title. I see these people as living more of a truly Nomadic lifestyle. They are often on the move, but in a thought-out way. They have destinations. They meet up and travel in caravans. It is a truly shared experience.

I have toyed with this idea since I started traveling in my own motorhome. We often stay in the same places as many of the full-timers – RV parks, national parks campgrounds and even the many BLM territories. One of the things that has held me back is that this project really needs to be centered on people. I’ve always had a block for pointing my camera at people. I’ve heard many say they feel they can hide behind their cameras, but I feel I am on center stage when I do it. Photography has always been an inward process for me. People have always intruded on that process. As Mickey Rourke said in Barfly, when asked if he hated people, “No, I don’t hate them, I just seem to feel better when they’re not around”.

This project requires more of an outward approach and so it will be interesting to see if I can break my phobia. We leave Monday morning and will be making our way south over the next few days. I will be blogging as I go and will post when I have an internet connection.

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One Response to New American Nomads

  1. Cate Markey says:


    I am loving this new blog entry and your project. It seems to lead you in new philosophical directions and there are good. Hi to Mary and happy sojourn.

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