Dale Rio

Forgotten 66
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Nationality: American
Biography: I am a photographer who has been shooting and printing my own work for nearly thirty years.  I received an MFA in photography from Pratt Institiute in 1996 and a Fulbright Travel Grant and the Miguel Vinciguerra Grant in 1997.  Since... read on
Public Story
Forgotten 66
Credits: dale rio
Date of Work: 01/01/07 - Ongoing
Updated: 07/28/17

Historic Route 66 exemplifies the interconnectedness of history, emotion, and humanity’s complicated relationship with nature. The hand of man once indelibly etched this strip of road into both the physical landscape of the American west and the imaginations of all who came in contact with – or simply heard of – it.  And now it is but a ghost of what it once was. 

Prior to President Eisenhower’s creation of the Interstate Highway system, Route 66 was the main artery connecting Chicago to California, the land of dreams for many affected by the Great Depression.  Route 66 became a symbol of hope.  Even after the Depression ended, people continued to travel along Route 66 as the proliferation of automobiles led to road trip vacations and the creation of campgrounds.  The mobile hotel (motel) business thrived, as did industries revolving around automobile culture, travel, and entertainment, such as gas stations, diners, auto body shops, and drive-in movie theatres.  Route 66 flourished.

But as the interstate system expanded and superhighways were built, traffic moved off of the Route, and it became regarded as archaic.  Towns that had boomed because of the Route 66 traffic began to lose business.  Some disappeared.


Now, decades after its heyday, Route 66 is a mix of desolate ghost towns and oases of painstakingly preserved historic icons.  My interest in Route 66 lies beyond the re-chromed diners and newly-built reproductions.  I am interested in documenting the overlooked and forgotten aspects of Route 66; the objects that served as important pieces of a larger whole during the Route’s glory days, surviving only to succumb to the eventuality of decay.  From individual businesses that were once integral to the Route to former boomtowns gone bust.  

These casualties of “progress” remind us that time is fleeting and unapologetic.  They show that despite the mistreatment of the earth and its resources by humans, (overworked soil and bad land management, unhindered expansion and construction), the planet is quick to reclaim what we have built and return it to its original source elements.  Forgotten houses overgrown by trees, metal signs collapsing into rust, everything laid bare being barraged by the elements; left to their own devices, these once-sturdy objects succumb to the natural order of things.

The photographs in this series serve both as a memory of times gone by and a reminder of how the things we consider permanent aren’t always so.

They are a tribute to the ghosts of Route 66.     


By Dale Rio —


The Black Mambas APU

By Dale Rio — In November, I traveled to South Africa to create portraits of members of the Black Mambas all-female..


By Dale Rio — These images represent my experiments with pinhole photography.  Some are part of a "Work-a-day..

In Absentia

By Dale Rio — This body of work features places that once buzzed with life but are now devoid of humanity.  Places..

Maasai Olympics

By Dale Rio — In December 2018, I traveled to Kenya to create portraits of the participants in the 4th biennial Maasai..

Terry Collection

By Dale Rio — The Terry Collection is a world-renowned forensic anthropology collection housed at the Smithsonian..

Band Archive

By Dale Rio — From the 1990s through the early 2000s, I photographed a lot of bands in New York and elsewhere.  I was..

Mt. Moriah Cemetery

By Dale Rio — Mt. Moriah is a cemetery in Philadelphia that was created in the 1800s as an alternative to the crowded and..


By Dale Rio — This portfolio contains portraits that I've made over the past fifteen years or so.  The photos..


By Dale Rio — Superfund sites are those deemed contaminated or polluted by the Environmental Protection Agency, which then..

One Nation, Oblivious

By Dale Rio — A few years ago, I was struck by the number of people who nearly walked into me because they were so..

The Borscht Belt

By Dale Rio — I have always been fascinated by abandoned places, particularly those that were of great importance in their..
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