See America First!

See America First!

See America First!

See America First! is a documentary photo essay and travelogue that illustrates the present-day identity of tourism in the American West. In the early 20th century, the Great Northern Railway created a marketing campaign to inspire Americans to plan their next vacation closer to home. In order to promote domestic travel, ads were launched combating the idea that beautiful places existed only in foreign countries (Glacier National Park, for example, was advertised as “The Switzerland of America”). The campaign was called “See America First” and helped to bring about a national tourism identity of traveling in the American West.

With the spirit of the original campaign at the forefront of my mind, I felt called to bring a contemporary voice to tourism in the American West, with a special focus on our national parks. Every summer, I retrace the road trips from my childhood and photograph travelers throughout the region of the West who often echo my personal memories of experiencing these places for the first time. The healing powers of nature and escapism inspired me to understand more deeply the way that the history and culture of tourism intersect with cultivating lifelong feelings of awe, wonder, wildness, and love.

Travelers know that the parks system is built for them—it is a conduit for cultivating empathy and connection across multiple generations. We are land-rich, and to be American is to inherit the transformative beauty of these places, then pass down that inheritance with precious care and grace. See America First! shares this uniquely American experience with those who have yet to feel this rich and undulating tapestry, and those so familiar with it that they can conjure those images in dreams.

German baptists take in the view at Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

A tourist takes a photo at Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.

Gideon and his children, Tamar and Max, enjoy the last light of the day at Cedar Pass Campground in Badlands National Park, South Dakota.

Siblings Matthew and Monique play on a giant paper mache coi fish in White Sands National Monument, New Mexico.

Red Rock Balloon Rally in Gallup, New Mexico.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

Miyako and Bernie visit Mount Rushmore, South Dakota.

Tourists take a photo in front of Old Faithful Geyser in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.

Sofie, Lisa, Sam, & Joris in Canyonlands National Park, Utah.

Glen and Sandy wear their collection of national park patches while visiting Death Valley National Park, California.

Junior rangers being sworn in at Capitol Reef National Park Visitor's Center in Utah.

Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.

Kelly, Kevin, Tom and Justin play cards together while on the ferry to Isle Royale National Park, Michigan.

A mountain goat walks along the Grinnell Glacier Trail in Glacier National Park, Montana.

Mural on Highway 89, Arizona.

Les & Mary on the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, New Mexico.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

Pizza selfie at Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park, California.

Melissa plays in the river at Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado.

Norris Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.

Brothers Reagan and Russell Wren share a souviner blanket while waiting to board the train during their family vacation to Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.

A national park ranger leads a bear safety demonstration at Yellowstone National Park Visitor's Center.

Mike and Linda visit Cody, Wyoming.

Tourists flock to a "Bear Jam" in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.

A tourist photographs a stop sign at Buffalo Bill Dam, Wyoming.

Arches National Park, Utah.

Sunrise on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona.

The northern lights illumuniate the night sky at the Glacier National Park Visitor's Center, Montana.

Gas station in Farmington, New Mexico.