Drawn to diners and other twentieth-century roadside architecture, photographer John Woolf embarked on a project of capturing images of these buildings—especially those in the Northeast industrial corridor from New Jersey to Maine. Twenty of these compelling photographs can be seen in the exhibition “Night Road,” which opens on November 6, 2010 at the Museum. It will be on view through May 31, 2011. Admission is free.
Most of these structures combine signage—both lettered and neon—designed to attract the attention of nocturnal travelers. As Woolf describes, “At night, with a mixture of the road’s various artificial light sources, interior lights shining through highly visible windows, and eye-catching, garish neon signs, these buildings and their surroundings suggest a film-noir movie set photographed in Technicolor.”
Using a digital camera and making multiple exposures for each light source and then combining them together in software, Woolf has tried to recreate the lurid color and dramatic lighting of these roadside structures. Digital photography enables this process, which would not be possible with a traditional film camera.
The popular architectural treasures highlighted in the photos date from an era when commercial buildings were more playful and symbolic than they are today. In the mid-1900s, builders constructed even common structures with a high level of craftsmanship and imagination. Some of these relics remain, and Woolf has captured them before they fade away.
The Museum is operating on its winter hours schedule and is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 am - 4:30pm
Leading Diner Authority Richard J. S. Gutman to Speak on November 20 at 2 pm
In conjunction with "Night Road," Richard J. S. Gutman, the leading authority on New England diner culture, will present the lecture “What Is It About Diners? More Than a Meal, That’s for Sure” on Saturday, November 20, 2 pm. One of the Museum’s most popular speakers, Mr. Gutman will draw on his more than 40 years of diner eating and scholarly research to elaborate on the staying power of this enduring American classic. Admission is free, made possible by the Lowell Institute.
Richard Gutman is director of the Culinary Arts Museum at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, and curator of their ongoing exhibition on the history of the American diner. Much of the collection, from photos and menus to stools and floor tile, is on loan from Mr. Gutman, who has been acquiring diner memorabilia since 1970. He is the recognized historian on the subject of diners, and popularized them through lectures, articles, exhibitions, and the publication of books on the subject, including American Diner (New York: Harper & Row, 1979) and American Diner Then and Now (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000; New York: HarperCollins, 1993). He and his wife Kellie were guest curators of two highly popular exhibitions at the Museum: “American Diner: Then and Now” and “Summer Camp.”
Coney Island Hot Dogs, Worcester, MA. Photographed 2009.
Rosebud Diner, Somerville, MA. Photographed 2009.
Richard J. S. Gutman