Culture & Communication
WITH AN ESSAY BY MARVIN HEIFERMAN
For the past forty years, my father has traveled around America as a telephone pole salesman. May the Road Rise to Meet You is a visual narrative of his professional life, recreated as a collaboration between father and daughter in an attempt to understand the life he has led separate from our shared family experience, and to explore the sadness and the freedom of a life spent alone on the open highway. »
During her childhood growing up in Spring, Texas, Sara Macel became increasingly curious about where her father went to work when he pulled his car out of the driveway. When her father announced he was thinking of retiring from his job as a traveling telephone pole salesman in 2014, Macel realized this was the last chance to get in the car with him to find out. May the Road Rise to Meet You (Daylight Books, October 2013) is the culmination of Macel’s remarkable photographic project that she embarked on with her father’s support to explore his professional life away from home from the vantage point of adulthood. Gathered here are photographs Macel took of road trips she made with her father in the present day, alongside photographs she made when she ventured off on her own to attempt to recreate what her father told her that he did, and what she imagined he might have done.
Macel’s work draws inspiration from the portrayal of traveling salesmen in movies, on television, and in plays such as Arthur Miller’s The Death of A Salesmen. In popular mythology, few professions are as emblematic of this mobile, ambitious and ommercially minded nation as the traveling salesman. As the Internet and outsourcing make this once ubiquitous occupation obsolete, May the Road Rise to Meet You explores the life of a businessman alone on the road. On a larger scale, this project explores the changing nature of « the road » in American culture and in the history of photography.
Sayville Motor Lodge, Sayville, New York
In his accompanying insightful essay, Marvin Heiferman writes: « Presented here, those images speak to the ways that photographers and photographs can tell stories and play games with memory. This book, ostensibly about one man, turns out to be about men in general, about men as seen by women, about parents as seen by their children. Photographs of Dennis Macel — depicted behind the steering wheels of big cars or sitting on the edge of hotel beds with a remote control or drink in hand — evoke thoughts about adventure, loneliness, communication, masculinity, family, nature, capitalism, and they remind us how photography plays a central role in defining them all. »
Macel writes, « We were traveling north on I-45 through Texas, when I asked my dad what it was like dealing with customers. He told me: ‘There’s that old saying that you don’t know someone until you walk a few miles in their moccasins.’ It was in that spirit that I put myself in my father’s size 10 boots. What I found in chasing this enormously elusive male figure is that I can never fully know my father or what it is like to be a man alone on the road. »
« Recognition Lifts the Human Spirit, » Spring, Texas
At the end of the book we learn various statistics about the career of Macel’s father, including average number of telephone poles he sells in a year (36,000), miles traveled by car in 2010 (6,000), miles traveled by plane in 2010 (8,500), time spent away from home in career (4,244 days or 11.62 years), and cost of a single telephone pole ($550 for 1 Southern Yellow Pine, 40 ft.)
Macel’s work brings an artful touch and feminine perspective to the male dominated genre of road photography as explored by Robert Adams, Robert Frank, Stephen Shore, Joel Sternfeld, and Alec Soth, among others. The book is a touching homage to a father from his daughter that is smart, nuanced, and void of the clichés, sentimentality and stereotypes often associated with this mythical profession.
Dennis Anthony Macel, Hitchcock, Texas
Pre-Launch Event in New York During Photoville
May the Road Rise to Meet You will have a pre-launch in New York City on Saturday, September 21, 2013 at Brooklyn Bridge Park, the site of the second annual Photoville, along with Daylight’s three other fall 2013 books by Sarah Christianson (Homeplace), Katie Murray (All The Queens Men) and Henry Jacobson (Postcards Home). There will be a panel discussion with the four artists entitled Family Matters: Photography In Close Relation from 5:30 until 6:30 p.m., followed by a book party that also serves to celebrate Daylight’s 10th Anniversary. The events are in partnership with Photoville and the Brooklyn Book Festival. The party will feature live music by New Jersey based group Thomas Wesley Stern.
About the artist:
Sara Macel (b. 1981, Houston, TX) is a Brooklyn-based artist and educator. She received her BFA in Photography + Imaging from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she received the Tobias Award for her project titled Kiss + Tell. Her first solo exhibition was on display at +Kris Graves Projects in Brooklyn, NY in 2009. Sara earned her MFA in Photography, Video & Related Media at the School of Visual Arts in 2011. That same year, she was named a winner in the Magenta Foundation Flash Forward competition, as well as a Top 50 Photographer in Photolucida’s Critical Mass Award, finalist in FotoVisura Spotlight Awards, and honorable mention at the New York Photo Awards. In 2012, she received the Aaron Siskind Individual Photographer’s Fellowship, was named best in show at Photobook 2012! at Davis Orton Gallery, and a winner in the New York Photo Festival Invitational. Her work has been widely exhibited and is in various private collections, including the Cleveland Museum of Art, ICP’s Library, Harry Ransom Center, and the Center of Photography at Woodstock. Sara currently teaches photography at Rockland Community College. For more information, visit the artist’s website: www.saramacel.com.
Marvin Heiferman, an independent curator and writer, originates and produces projects about the impact of photographic images on art and visual culture. He has organized exhibitions and developed print and online content for clients including the Museum of Modern Art, The Smithsonian Photography Initiative, The International Center of Photography, The Whitney Museum and the New Museum. A contributing editor to Art in America, Heiferman has written for museum publications, catalogs, monographs, and magazines including Artforum, Bookforum, ArtNews, Aperture, and Bomb. He is a core faculty member in the International Center of Photography/Bard College MFA Program in Advanced Photographic Studies, and teaches in the School of Visual Art’s MFA Program in Photography, Video and Related Media. Author and/or editor of over two dozen books on photography and visual culture, Heiferman’s most recent book, Photography Changes Everything, was published in 2012. New entries to his Twitter-based project, WHY WE LOOK (@whywelook) are posted daily.
U.S. | CDN $44.95
Hbk, 10 x 9 in. / 92 pgs / 50 color.
Daylight is a non-profit organization dedicated to publishing art and photography books. By exploring the documentary mode along with the more conceptual concerns of fine art, Daylight’s uniquely collectible publications work to revitalize the relationship between art, photography, and the world-at- large. For information, visit www.daylightbooks.org. To check out Daylight Digital, visit www.daylightdigital.com.
In collaboration with Andrea Smith Public Relations – International PR