The North American frontier is an enduring symbol of romance, rebellion, escape, and freedom. At the same time, it’s a profoundly masculine myth—cowboys, outlaws, Beat poets. Photographer Justine Kurland reclaimed this space in her now-iconic series of images of teenage girls, taken between 1997 and 2002 on the road in the American wilderness. “I staged the girls as a standing army of teenaged runaways in resistance to patriarchal ideals,” says Kurland. She portrays the girls as fearless and free, tender and fierce. They hunt and explore, braid each other’s hair, and swim in sun-dappled watering holes—paying no mind to the camera (or the viewer). Their world is at once lawless and utopian, a frontier Eden in the wild spaces just outside of suburban infrastructure and ideas. Twenty years on, the series still resonates, published here in its entirety and including newly discovered, unpublished images.
Justine Kurland (born in Warsaw, NY) is a an American fine art photographer, based in New York City. Kurland received a BFA from the School of Visual Arts and an MFA from Yale University. Her work is in the public collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, Guggenheim Museum, and International Center of Photography, New York, among other institutions. Her monograph, Highway Kind, was published by Aperture in 2016.
Rebecca Bengal writes short stories, essays, and long-form narrative, frequently about photography. Her work has been published by the New Yorker, Bookforum, Paris Review, Vogue, and the New York Times, among others. She is the Spring 2020 Mina Hohenberg Darden Chair in Creative Writing at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.