The American photographer Stephen Shore once declared, “Our country is made for long trips.” While the myth of the Western frontier had long engaged artists, and photographers including Walker Evans and Edward Weston immortalized their travels through the United States in the 1930s and 1940s, the American road trip gained new prominence in literature, music, movies, and photography after World War II.

As the growth of the Interstate Highway System and the wider availability of automobiles made it easier to cross the country’s expanse, more photographers embarked on trips to create work about America itself or better understand their place in it. The road trip remains an enduring symbol in American culture, suggesting possibility, discovery, and escape—a place to get lost and find yourself in the process.

The Open Road explores the photographic road trip as a genre and America as an imaginative resource, presenting the stories of photographers for whom the American road was muse. More than 100 images spanning the 1950s to today suggest how photographers have discovered in the specific details of America’s vastness a means to reflect on place, time, and self.