He rode about 6,700 miles on a train, only spending one night off-board during his eight day journey. “I have long been aware of the enjoyment of looking at landscape from a train but have never been able to a grand degree as I was this summer,” said Varland.He decided to take a photo every hour for the entirety of the trip, resulting in 150 photos. From the backyards of El Paso to the coast of California, Varland shot it all. Each photo has its own unique personality, resulting in an “eclectic mix of things,” said Varland.
“I was documenting not just the highlights but exciting and average moments,” said Varland.
Varland hopes people take the time to slow down and appreciate the photos regardless of if they aren’t very picturesque or are very recognizable. “Railroads weren’t built to have a scenic view the entire time. I’ve become conscious of what it means to travel while soaking up and engaging the landscape,” said Varland.
Towards the end of the trip Varland grew a little weary, but he wasn’t tired of being on the train. Rather he was tired of continuously taking photos.
“The scenery is continuing to unfold, things keep coming at you and you don’t have the chance to really adjust the composition,” said Varland.
His photos range from very cleanly focused to blurry. “Anytime you’re moving, you are fighting sharpness,” said Varland.
With minimal editing and no purposeful manipulation accompanied by a journalistic sensitivity, Varland aimed to tell the story of the beauty that the American terrain shows.
“I have a real interest in the American landscape, and by landscape it isn’t just the natural [landscape] but what I refer to as the cultural landscape. That’s what people have made—roads, buildings, the human impact on the world,” said Varland.
Before the journey began, Varland set out to raise money to make it possible.
He raised $945 through the online fundraising program Kickstarter to support the trip. Kickstarter is free to begin a project but charges a 10 percent fee from the amount of money raised. Varland’s supporters included SAU faculty, alumni, current students and anonymous donors.
Varland’s exhibit will be featured in the Jackson Amtrak station from Sept. 18 through Oct. 18. “I want to make the work available to people who wouldn’t normally get a chance to see it,” said Varland.
The photos are online on Varland’s Flickr photostream. Prints are available by emailing Varland at email@example.com.