a city of questionable allure

Route 66, Albuquerque, March 2015, by John Fleck

Route 66, Albuquerque, March 2015, by John Fleck

There’s a famous 1969 photo by Ernst Haas of Route 66 in Albuquerque, scrubbed by a summer rain, looking east toward the mountains. I’m not smart enough to have been imitating, so this isn’t homage. But if you click on the link (I’m not going to embed the image, respect for copyright) you can see on the right of Haas’s image, just past the traffic light, is the spot where I was standing when I took this.

Hucksters trying to pump up the value of a print a couple of years ago tried to tie the Haas picture to Breaking Bad:

Albuquerque is a city of questionable allure, a desert-washed blip in the landscape of the Land of Enchantment. The city serves as the backdrop to the massively popular TV show Breaking Bad, and in a recent interview with The New York Times, the show’s creator, Vince Gilligan, explains that it was Abuquerque’s “stealth charm” that attracted him to the city, elaborating that one of the city’s greatest assets is the piece of Route 66 that still runs through it, “dotted with old neon motel signs like that great Ernst Haas photo.”

Lissa and I were waiting for the bus when the T-Bird drove by. Warm day, Sunday afternoon, top down, and they looked so happy, about as un-Breaking Bad as an Albuquerque day can get. At least I think. I’ve never seen any Breaking Bad.

Haas is using a very long lens, so his scene is compressed in a way that both is part of what makes it a great picture, and that is also disconcerting when you stand there looking at the scene yourself. My picture, with an 18mm lens, is more like your eye actually sees. A reminder that good photography can distort in useful ways.

I’ve lived my whole life, with the exception of five years away at college, within a mile or two of Route 66. It’s always seemed like a story line of some sort, but I’ve never quite known what to do with it. I’d just be draping my personal story uncomfortably atop Route 66 tourist nostalgia. But I always have loved the idea of Route 66, and having some connection to it, and I guess Haas is always in the back of my mind when I have a camera in my hand on that stretch of Central.

One Comment

  1. I cannot think now about the charm of Route 66 without thinking in the back or fore of my brain about the connection between cars and climate change. Too bad we didn’t know this back in the 1950’s. (Well not very many of us knew) The “road trip” has lost all of it’s charm.

Comments are closed.