One of my first adventures away from home, I remember riding my bike through luscious fields and vast orchards to go see a movie. My perception of time was the fields being fallow or lush, if the cherry branches were bare or blossoming. Soon, Highway 85 would replace those fields with a speedy concrete route through Silicon Valley flanked by tract homes. Watching my timepiece, the natural elements of my neighborhood, bulldozed, the purpose of another freeway was mysterious to me.
Soon, I would spend several years commuting to my visit my father. Friday night I would be driven half way to his place, meeting his car at some lonely rest stop. Sunday night would be the return trip. Week after week this cycle proceeded. Month after month, year after year, an hour there, an hour back. There would be a sense of urgency to get there, an urgency to return home to do homework or go to a birthday party. Rush there, rush back.
Meanwhile, the drive was also some of the only alone time I had with my parents as I questioned the world around me. I – prisoner to this back and forth; them – prisoner to my inquisition. The view from the car window was some of the only traveling I did before I was in high school, it was my only perspective on time and place, distance and geography, religion and relationships.
I write this many years after I began to take photographs. My original intention with my camera was to illustrate the complexities of the world, with the tinge of sweetness and beauty that color it all. Watching technology boom in Silicon Valley - that was a confusing time for me. I watched my family struggle as others prospered; I photographed that. I began visiting friends in southern California; leaving late Friday night and returning late Sunday night – the typical ‘red-eye’ drive that is known to so many in the Bay Area: head to Interstate 5 after dark, drive as fast as possible without stopping, arrive at some destination down south.
Once, the ‘red-eye’ drive began earlier than usual. We were driving in the spring and following the tail of a storm system mid-day. Vast open skies and fields and orchards for miles and miles, dark looming clouds on the horizon turning into billowy soft cotton balls. It was the most beautiful landscape I’d ever seen, and I photographed that.
Sarah Windels is a fine art photographer based in Oakland, CA. Her projects take her on the road, and back home, to explore time and place.
All images are shot using color or black and white film.