Because time was of the essence I tried to keep my initial "pitch" brief. I realized most people were on rigorous travel schedules, were often tired and hot, their patience at a low ebb, and that they were possibly not thrilled at my sudden appearance. Often their first response was to stare at me, as they wondered who the hell I was, what my game was, but after they decided I might not be completely crazy, that in fact I looked almost official with the flash-mounted Hasselblad around my neck, itself clanking against the aforementioned SX-70, they would invariably look at each other, shrug and say sure, okay, why not? As soon as they agreed, I moved into position, first making a portrait with the "big camera" then the Polaroid. The encounters might last as long as fifteen or twenty minutes, if people wanted to stay and chat, or run as short as thirty seconds, the Polaroid print still developing out in their hands as they hustled back to their motorhomes or cars, heading for the next overlook.

After the color film trips in the early 1980's, I worked on several other photographic projects, then returned to the sightseer project in the late 1990's expanding it to include the Midwest, South and East Coast. In completing this series, I have explored the length and breadth of the United States, driving more than 50,000 miles from the Olympic Peninsula to the Lincoln Memorial, from the Smokey Mountains to the top of the World Trade Center, from Old Faithful Geyser to the rim of the Grand Canyon, from Niagara Falls to the St. Louis Arch, and from Crazy Horse to Gettysburg.

As I worked, I continued to ask myself what is it that's behind this phenomenon of visiting these places of wonder and curiosity? What draws people by the hundreds of thousands, at great expense of time and money, to such far places for that all-too-brief but important look? Clearly, something undeniably American was going on, but what exactly? A part of me sometimes believed that when we¿re standing at the overlooks, gaping elbow to elbow with hundreds of fellow travelers, we¿re there as consumers, that we¿re there to possess what we see, not unlike the big-game hunter on safari, except, fortunately, in this case the prize trophy is only the home movie or snapshot of mom and pop and gran and gramps and the kids, concrete proof the visit has taken place.

But there has to be more than that. The force at work seems so strong, so compelling, it seems woven into the fabric of the American psyche. Many times, during my hours of waiting, watching people come upon this or that overlook, I would see individuals stand awe-struck, see them lapse into reverie, and was reminded of the religious pilgrimages of the Middle East or Asia -- though with a peculiarly American twist. Amid the loud and garish array of costumes and consumer goods, of cars and campers and motorhomes idling in nearby parking lots, people seemed not to be taking a trip just to make a trip, but to be participating in something that was both tangible and mysterious, something extraordinary -- something, in fact, almost spiritual. Traveling to these sought-after destinations seemed a sort of ritual, and arriving a kind of reassurance, as if, at the moment of recognition, we are facing not only a shard American past and present, but perhaps a hopeful future. --- Roger Minick 1999