The Colorful Ruins of the American West, Captured Like Postcards

This article originally appeared on Visual News.


The American West is a heartbreaking landscape. Whether you’re intrigued in the east, never having been under those—as DeLillo put it—great western skies or you’re from the west and you know the mystery dies out in slices with each passing year of construction and saturation, there’s an rapturously tragic quality to the west, from prairie to coast, blooming in your heart with daydreams or nostalgia. What was once our beloved American West, the promised land of adventurers and sleepyheads at the end of the motorized Oregon Trail that was Route 66, where an explorer’s spirit was put to good use by way of burning rubber and gasoline whiffs, is now a less magical place that somehow glows more fascinating because you only catch it in cracks of structure and moments of conversation, so it’s never been more important; a rare, practically exotic essence drenched in seemingly endless sunshine. That’s why Hayley Eichenbaum snaps one gorgeous photo after another that captures the colorful, curiously shaped soul that can’t be killed in the American West.

But Eichenbaum isn’t a professional photographer. She doesn’t even have formal training. In fact, according to her own words, “I quit pretty much every photography class I’ve ever taken.” You’d never guess that, given her portfolio. Yet, the American West you see from her is shot on a Nikon D7 100 and iPhone, and she’s gained her reputation through Instagram.

Eichenbaum’s been on the app since 2013, but it wasn’t until the following year, when she spent a month winding her slow wondrous way through Route 66, sneak-attacking the American West by popping close to 15,000 photos. In 2015, Eichenbaum actually moved west. Now a L.A. local, she regularly bounces out to tear the road a new one, searching for “this kind of wilting and romantic Americana.”

You see what she gets at, from the brightly colored ruins of roadside attractions to the picturesque sublime beat of what has reformed the American West anew.

See Hayley Eichenbaum’s spectacular work in the American West.