Artist Statement

meet me
where the white lane fades
and the guardrail bends,
where cars brake sharp
and road turns to sand

meet me
in the middle of the curve
at two trees lost and worn,
roots deep in the cicada
and clay guarding earth’s core

and we’ll hang a clothesline,
a belated sigh, the weight of fruit,
billowing from birch to beak
in a breeze felt just by
me and you

meet me
at the place with no name
and the name with no place

meet me
where I am
where I am is where I am found

find me where I am
where I am is where I belong

an exit is also an entrance

—Jacob Hopkins

What began as a series of pictures of things found along the side of rural roads grew into a collection of images that tell the story of how we define ourselves and our boundaries; where we belong; and how we connect with each other in the world.

I remember with fondness, my father admonishing us as children, sit up and look at the scenery, as we traveled to and from our small town to the city for shopping. On family vacations, my mother squealed with delight when we came upon an orange grove or an apple orchard, ordering my father to pull over so she could pick her own. It seems we seldom pull over on the side of the road these days. I wondered what we might be missing. This project documents my journey of discovery.

For a season of summer I did this, with my husband, road-tripping along country roads through communities with names like Port Conway, Unionville, and Woodford. We took the long way everywhere, trusting our instincts and taking chances. I never styled or changed the things I found along the road. Instead, I faithfully documented the scenes as they were, hoping to record the emotion of being both lost and found. I let a mimosa tree, an old shoe, a sign along the highway speak to me. After a while, we craved these long rides, seldom knowing where we were going or who we might meet.

Each of the photographs is about what we find on the side of the road: along the white line, on the edge, the shoulder, the verge, and just beyond. The collection of over 100 images takes the reader on a drive through the byways of Virginia, much like a map, with miles marked by lost keys, discarded toys, abandoned vehicles, produce stands, indigenous plants, and countryside churches. The photographs beckon the reader to consider what is hidden in plain sight and perhaps more importantly, what we have lost sight of. Like a stone dropped in a pond, pulling over on the side of the road creates a ripple effect. There is at first curiosity and wonder, followed by presence and attention, and then awe and appreciation.

In the end, the photographs are meant to be an invitation. They may evoke a memory, make you feel homesick, or inspire you to hop in the car and go on a road trip. —Donna Hopkins