Vanishing Vernacular

Western Landmarks

Steve Fitch, Toby Jurovics

An unforgettable photographic journey through the disappearing roadside landscapes and landmarks of the American West.
Date Published :
April 2018
Publisher :
George F Thompson Publishing
Illustration :
119 color photographs and 11 color illustrations, including 2 gatefolds
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding : Hardback
ISBN : 9781938086601
Pages : 172
Dimensions : 11.9 X 10 inches
Stock Status : In stock


Finalist 2018 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards – Arts Books

Steve Fitch is among America’s most well-known chroniclers of the American West since the days of Easy Rider. He has been photographing examples of the West’s changing vernacular landscape and vanishing roadside landmarks for more than 40 years. In his new book, he presents both the ancient and the modern by way of petroglyphs, neon motel signs and hand-painted business signs, drive-in movie theater screens, and radio and cell towers. All of them are now endangered because of the advent of the Interstate Highway System and corporate franchises.

In this fascinating and comprehensive account, we are able to join in Fitch’s expansive journey, truly an odyssey, as represented in the book’s 120 unforgettable photographs, all sequenced to mimic the open road—both during day and night. Fitch explains the project in his informative introduction, in which, interestingly, he suggests that the petroglyphs of the ancient Pueblo people have endured far better and longer than anything made during the last sixty years. Curator Toby Jurovics, in his insightful concluding essay, positions Fitch’s work in relation to that of the practitioners of the photographic style known as the “New Topographics” and Fitch’s own view of photography as a visual form of cultural anthropology.

Vanishing Vernacular: Western Landmarks is sure to become a modern-day classic, a book that will be all the more revered as America and Americans move farther away from the highways of the past. That economy and roadside culture are vanishing like endangered species, but Fitch was along for the ride. In sharing that past, he has been witness to his own form of historic preservation.

About The Author

Steve Fitch has been a photographer since the early 1970s. He has taught at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Princeton University, and, most recently, at the College of Santa Fe and The Santa Fe University of Art and Design. He is the recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships in 1973 and 1975; the last National Endowment for the Arts Survey Grant, awarded in 1981; and the Eliot Porter Fellowship in 1999. He is also the author of Diesels & Dinosaurs: Photographs From the American Highway (Long Run Press, 1976), and Gone: Photographs of Abandonment on the High Plains by Merril Gilfillan, Kathleen Howe, and Evelyn Schlatter (University of New Mexico Press 2002). His work is in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, and Yale University Art Gallery, among others.

Toby Jurovics is Chief Curator and Richard and Mary Holland Curator of American Western Art at the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska. Previously, he was Curator of Photography at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Associate Curator of Photography at the Princeton University Art Museum. He has organized exhibitions on Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Barbara Bosworth, Emmet Gowin, A. J. Russell, William Sutton, and William Wylie, among many other artists, and has written seminal essays on Thomas Joshua Cooper, John Gossage, and the New Topographics. He is the author of Framing the West: The Survey Photographs of Timothy H. O'Sullivan (Yale University Press, 2010).


“Steve Fitch reminds us of one of the great pleasures of the classic American road trip, the exuberant roadside motel sign, an endangered species he artfully captures in all its neon glory, alongside drive-in movie theaters, hand-painted signs, and other oddities of the Western cultural landscape.”

- Katherine Ware, Curator of Photography, New Mexico Museum of Art

"Steve Fitch, who refers to himself as a visual folklorist, has documented the changing landscape of the American West since the mid-1970s. His new photo book, Vanishing Vernacular: Western Landmarks, is a striking visual commentary on how these once ubiquitous signs—alongside thousand-year-old petroglyphs, small-town murals, and drive-in theaters—are becoming part of the collective memory of the West."

- Aida Amer, Atlas Obscura

“In Steve Fitch’s wonderful photographic survey Vanishing Vernacular: Western Landmarks we find a fading world of the hotels, diners, radio masts and cinemas dotted along the highways [...] Fitch produces a moving paean to the landmarks of yesteryear. This is Americana of an imaginative kind.”

- Christian House, Sotheby's Art Reviewer, Art Agency, Partners

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