In 1960, John Steinbeck set out in a pickup truck with his French poodle, Charley, to reacquaint himself with a country from which he felt disconnected. His main inquiry—“What are Americans like today?”—formed the basis of his book “Travels with Charley: In Search of America,” published in 1962.Share
Four decades later, with Steinbeck’s question in mind, the Dutch photographer Pieter Ten Hoopen embarked on an American road trip of his own. In need of a starting place, he recalled a passage from “Travels with Charley”: “I’m in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana it is love.” After travelling around the state for a week, Ten Hoopen spent ten days in the tiny town of Hungry Horse, tucked in the Rocky Mountains outside of Glacier National Park.
Over the next decade, Ten Hoopen returned to Hungry Horse nearly two dozen times, getting to know the landscape and building relationships with town residents (many initially suspicious of the imposing European). At the end of his decade-long inquiry (which resulted in a book and a short film, made in collaboration with MediaStorm), Ten Hoopen was troubled by the problems he had encountered: the effects of the economic downturn, widespread meth addiction. But he was also amazed by the resilience of the people he came to know. “I think it would have been much harder for me to make the work in many small European towns,” he told me. “People are more suspicious there. In the U.S., it’s easier to start a dialogue.” (Read more.)