Photo of Hearne, Texas, street by Alec Soth.
The dreamy on-the-road partnership between photographer Alec Soth and writer Brad Zellar just wrapped another chapter. Chronicled in their self-styled newspaper, The LBM Dispatch, the two visit various parts of the country and attempt to capture that mix of geography, humanity and circumstance that creates regional character.
Though the results often seem serendipitous, they have an itinerary heading out, Zellar said. “We hate being in the van so we usually know where we’re going with some idea of why,” he said.
They’ve previously applied their particular documentary style to Ohio, Michigan, Colorado and upstate New York This time out the pair tackled the Texas Triangle, a more than 60,000-square mile swath that’s home to 70 percent of the state’s population. Among their stops were the site of JFK’s assassination on its 50th anniversary, the 16th execution of a Texas death-row prisoner in 2013, and a tatty shrine to the Virgin Mary erected by a farmer who claimed in a hand-lettered sign that she helped him get his tractor unstuck.
Throughout the trip, Zellar and Soth had looked in vain for that archetypal kind of town made immortal by “The Last Picture Show.” Toward the end, on the way back to Huntsville to cover the state’s 16th and last execution of the year, they stumbled onto tiny, desolate Hearne.
“It was at the exact epicenter of the Texas Triangle formed by San Antonio, Dallas and Houston,” Zellar said. “The light was perfect. There were no cars. Along six or seven blocks of this super-wide main street, everything was closed down but a drugstore. It was spooky, it was so abandoned. When we got back to the motel we found out it was one of the first towns that WalMart moved into.”
Unusually unprofitable itself, that WalMart was closed in 1990 and turned into a high school.
Like the LBM’s five previous editions, a print version of the collected stories and photos may be previewed and purchased at lbmdispatch.tumblr.com.
The duo have been attracting interest from far-flung corners, including the New Yorker’s Photo Booth blog and the Russian version of Esquire magazine, which flew a stylist and three trunks of designer clothes from Moscow to Grand Junction, Colorado, for a fashion shoot photographed by Soth and featuring Zellar as the model. Brad was game for the job, despite momentary hesitation on how to pronounce “Givenchy.”
See below for one of the surreal images from that experience.
Brad Zellar channels Cary Grant in "North by Northwest" for a fashion shoot for Russian Esquire. Photo by Alec Soth.