Scene 1: a patch of grass in Raton, New Mexico. On it stands a child’s ancient horse-shaped swing, well overdue for a paintjob and a new pair of hind legs. Powerlines punctuate an empty expanse of dun-coloured countryside beyond.
Scene 2: A&W drive-in, Caspar, Wyoming. An unoccupied RV is parked to the side. The only other sign of life? A quartet of faded fibreglass figures holding frothy drinks and hamburgers on the corrugated tin shelter.
Scene 3: sweeping desert, Cisco, Utah. Under a huge blue sky, a clutch of chevroned traffic signs point at unseen horizons. The last man on earth pulls over to take a photo, then continues on his road-trip down the empty highways and by-ways of rural USA.
Like stills from a movie about the end of the world, the photos in Paul Sisson’s Not So Far From Here series answer the question that most of us have pondered at least once: “What would it be like to be the last person on earth?”
But this is no movie and there’s been no apocalypse. This is the vast, lonely American West, as immortalised by Sisson over the course of several spontaneous road trips originating from his home in Boulder, Colorado. And though the only hint of human life in his photos comes in the form of man-made objects and structures long since left to rot, the vibe is far less bleak than you might expect, and considerably quirkier.
Sisson set out to capture “the wonders and curiosities that lay beyond the focused eyes of this twenty-first-century society… things that would be missed by flying by a little town on the highway” as we hurry to our destination without “enjoying the proverbial journey”.
Not So Far From Here is an enjoyable journey indeed, revealing a raft of roadside surprises. An installation of old cars arranged to look like Stonehenge then forgotten...
A solitary block of compacted metal rubbish in the middle of a parched field...
And dilapidated buildings like twentieth-century ruins, abandoned to the elements by a lost civilisation...
So where did everyone go? If only those crumbling walls could talk. Draw your own conclusions here.
Photography: Paul Sisson