Moving photos of the restless souls who live on the open road

Culture

Photographer Nicholas Syracuse captures the never-ending journey.

Zack Kotzer
May 16, 2018
Moving Photos Of The Restless Nomads On The Open Road
West Texas, 2013 (Photo by Nicholas Syracuse)

When Nicholas Syracuse was a teenager, he would habitually run away from home. On one trip, hopping a Greyhound bus from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles, he bought a snapshot camera to take pictures of the journey but regrettably didn’t take a single shot. Since those halcyon days moving among fellow nomads, Syracuse has discovered the importance of documenting the breakaways.

“I always saw those trips as more of an exploration towards something new, challenging and exciting rather than the running away from something back home,” said Syracuse in an email. “I think about the motivations I had then and the ones that take me out on the road now and I find they are they are still much the same.”

In his photo series, Syracuse captures modern American nomads, the transients who hop fences and trains alike. Surviving in the United States has changed over the century, but displacement remains a common thread. In his images, Syracuse hopes to convey the long stretches of road now behind these nomads. A journey that only gets more difficult.

Nicholas Syracuse Southbound Train Herb 1 Moving photos of the restless souls who live on the open road
Southbound Freight, North Carolina (Photo by Nicholas Syracuse)

“For those who haven’t ridden before riding freights is an extremely physical experience,” said Syracuse. “That’s what struck me the first time I rode and one aspect that the photos don’t often show. It’s loud, it’s hot, it’s cold and probably uncomfortable in ways you likely haven’t anticipated or experienced before. You risk getting seen and pulled off by the bulls, police or messed up pretty bad or killed by some piece of dull rusting steel. You probably won’t sleep well and will have to walk for miles through the crunch of gravel and weeds, sweating or freezing along roadsides into towns to find supplies and a place to power up. There’s no guarantees, no certainties or final destination.”

Syracuse doesn’t hop train cars like he used to but he still respects the nomads who, like he says, are willing to surrender the ‘culture of convenience, safety nets and compliance’ for the uncertainty of it all. 

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Tucson, Arizona, 2017 (Photo by Nicholas Syracuse)
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Wendover, Nevada 2017 (Photo by Nicholas Syracuse)
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Shoestring, CSX Railyard, Cumberland Maryland, 2015 (Photo by Nicholas Syracuse)
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Gallop, New Mexico, 2014 (Photo by Nicholas Syracuse)
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Imperial Valley, California, 2014 (Photo by Nicholas Syracuse)
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Quartsite, Arizona, 2016 (Photo by Nicholas Syracuse)
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Deming, New Mexico, 2015 (Photo by Nicholas Syracuse)
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Truck Stop, Milltown, Montana, 2016 (Photo by Nicholas Syracuse)
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Route 61 Arkansas (Photo by Nicholas Syracuse)
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Route 518, New Mexico, 2015 (Photo by Nicholas Syracuse)
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Niland, California, 2015 (Photo by Nicholas Syracuse)
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Washington State, 2016 (Photo by Nicholas Syracuse)
Zack Kotzer
May 16, 2018