PhotoLounge Presents: Alana Gardner

Beyond the Gallery

Do you think it’s important for artists to travel? 
“I don’t think it’s necessary, but it can definitely spark one’s inspiration and growth both in their art and in themselves, which is never a bad thing. I started taking photos when I was in China with my mom, visiting her hometown, using my iPad mini when I was in 7th grade. I don’t know if I’d be doing what I do now if I hadn’t had that experience. And in the same way, I hadn’t been shooting for a long time before this trip out of lack of inspiration and motivation, but visiting these very new, very different, and very beautiful places forced me to document them. I was so far out of my comfort zone and it shifted my perspective entirely on life, so when I came back from this trip I couldn’t put my camera down.”

What surprised you most about the trip? 
“That I like camping! Kidding. I do like camping though, and that was surprising to find out about myself. I was surprised most by the fact that although we were thousands of miles from home and often without the cell service to reach our friends and family, we didn’t feel too alone. Even when we were miles from the nearest people. The wilderness was comforting and kept us company. I have never loved the outdoors ever. Ask anyone who knows me, they know I like to be comfortable and that I hate bugs and dirt and sleeping anywhere that isn’t my queen sized bed. But for once I was excited to experience this in the most authentic way. I didn’t mind having to use baby wipes in lieu of a shower or sleeping in a tent in Northern Nevada in 25 degree weather.”

Favorite/memorable story from the trip?
“Our second night of the trip, we stayed at this lovely Air Bnb of a retired elementary school science teacher’s house in Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri. She told us all about her travels when she was young and as a teacher and gave us advice for our trip. Her Australian Shepard, Ripple, could not leave us alone — she was so friendly and furry and would not stop smiling. Jesse and I spent the evening having picnic and indulging in our road trip drinking game — a shot for every Cracker Barrel billboard and two for every Cracker Barrel store we didn’t spot before the other. Before we knew it, we were skinny dipping, jumping off her 15-foot tall diving board into the dark, deep lake.”

What was it like traveling on the road during Covid? 
“Funny and strange. One of the reasons we thought this would be such a good trip for the times is because we’d be away from other people most of the time and we’d be spending a lot of time outdoors. When we left Philly in mid May, all the Covid mandates were still in place and I was still wearing a face shield at work. As soon as we left the state, heading into West Virginia, we realized it wasn’t the same everywhere else, and people would stare when you wore a mask. From that point on, we noticed the same everywhere, besides a few of the big cities. The coolest part was running into other folks doing the same thing as us — getting out of their respective cities to see the national parks or just to escape into the wilderness to get away from other people and the reminder of Covid lingering everywhere. We also met a woman at an overlook once that had lost her job due to Covid and was spending months living in her car with her dog so she could finally see all the natural wonders she’d been waiting her whole life to see. It was comforting to see people using this weird time in Covid purgatory to explore and learn and grow.”

Did you have any artistic/creative realizations while on the trip? 
“That my work was important. I took a very casual approach when embarking on the trip, especially if you consider the fact I brought only one of my film cameras and just some rolls of expired film on a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I quickly realized that even with my little amateur equipment, it would be a huge shame if I didn’t try my best to capture where we were to the best of my abilities.”


Which states did you travel through? 
“Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, and Michigan.”

 What do you like most about the images captured? 
“That they were everything I hoped they’d be. They captured the essence of freedom, the newness, the stillness, the vastness, and of course, the beauty of it all. I love them even more knowing that I didn’t have to put much thought or effort into them. They were effortlessly perfect, or at least exactly what I wanted. They remind me of my late father’s film photos of his travels out West, and it feels like I am a little closer to him now.”

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