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William Eckersley and Alexander Shields
These photographs are from a recently completed body of work, titled U.S.80.
U.S.80 was the first coast-to-coast highway in America, pre-dating even the fabled Route 66. It spans nearly 3,000 miles between Savannah, Georgia and San Diego, California, covering an enormous diversity of the American landscape and culture.
This includes the rural south, scarred by civil war and civil rights, boom towns of Texas enriched with oil surplus, and creeping scarcity as scrubland gives way to the western deserts along the Mexican border. Having been superseded by interstates, this once thriving road now lies neglected through parts of America that are also frequently overlooked.
During three visits between 2008 and 2009, we travelled U.S.80 several times, building a collection of large and medium format photographs that document the road and its environs. We’ve always had a fascination with America and particularly with the travelogue genre of American film and literature. Through this prism, we wanted to explore our interests in forgotten worlds and slightly wild, inhospitable landscapes, as well as the often transient nature of America’s built environment – something that reflects the history of migration in U.S. culture.
The project was recently published as a book with a foreword by the renowned journalist and broadcaster Jon Snow, and exhibited at Cole Contemporary on Little Portland Street during London’s Frieze Art Fair.
Eckersley and Shields have been photographing for the better part of a decade, after initially studying at LCC and St.Martin’s. In that time, Eckersley spent a number of years working as an architecture and interiors photographer for a London design agency, whilst Shields worked as a graphic designer for a news channel in Washington DC. However, it is their collaborations that have produced their most arresting work.
Their first project, Left London, was an historic study of derelict sites and buildings around their home city. It reflected their interest in abandoned spaces and garnered wide critical acclaim. After setting up Stucco Press to publish the work as a 176 page book, Sarah Kent (Time Out’s influential Art Editor) was among consenting voices when she asserted that “never before has vanity publishing led to such a splendid publication”.
The success of the book prompted involvement in two high-profile exhibitions- London Stories at Shoreditch Town Hall and the Photo London 2007 exhibition in Old Billingsgate Market. Work from this project is held by various collectors, including the sportswear company Nike, and Sir Elton John.
U.S.80 was published as a book in September 2010, with a foreword by the renowned journalist and broadcaster Jon Snow, and complimented by an exhibition at Cole Contemporary on Little Portland Street during London’s Frieze Art Fair. Eckersley has a further project, with the working title of Dark City, due for publication in 2011.