Photo Essay: Greetings from America

Jennifer Emerling draws on nostalgia and a street photographer’s eye to capture the antic intersection of tourism and nature.

A version of this story appeared in the summer 2020 issue of Uncommon Path

Using memories from her childhood summer road trips as a narrative spine, photographer Jennifer Emerling creates her own contemporary “postcards.” For this ongoing project, she looks to capture shared instances of joy, traveling to places where tourists from around the world converge. “I gravitate toward sharing the human experience,” says Emerling, who began the project in 2009. “I am looking for moments that show the culture of tourism and connectivity when we are outdoors traveling along the same roads and having a collective experience.”

White Sands National Park, New Mexico

Pictured above

“I spent days not finding any people to photograph in White Sands. This was my last day. It was a very surreal moment. I saw the koi fish and thought, What in the world?”

Cody, Wyoming

Bikers in Cody, Wyoming

“National park gift-shop kitsch meets biker culture, which is a little more tough. These bikers were about to leave Cody wearing their Yellowstone hats—a moose and a bear.”


Bedrock City, Williams, Arizona

Bedrock City, Williams, Arizona

“Bedrock City is a Flintstones theme park from the ’50s and ’60s near the Grand Canyon. It’s for when the kids are driving you crazy and you still have four hours to go. That dinosaur is a slide.”


Siesta Key Beach, Sarasota, Florida

Siesta Key Beach, Sarasota, Florida

During the winter, members of the Mennonite community often travel to this area as snowbirds. Here, they’re dipping their toes in the gulf waters and enjoying the last light of the day.


Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

At the ever popular Mather Point, a rock before the main viewpoint makes for the perfect photo op.


Long Beach, Washington

Kite festival in Long Beach, Washington

“Many people say this kite festival is their one vacation, and they save up for it. Seeing a sky filled with colorful kites, I couldn’t help but think, This is what joy looks like.”


Death Valley National Park, California

Glen and Sandy at Death Valley National Park

“Glen and Sandy are a retired couple who spend half their winters on the road. It’s common to see such badges of honor, but these two have a higher number than most people.”

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