If you’ve traveled around the U.S., you’ll recognize them. The small, over-touristy towns that border on National Parks. This is where you’ll find those garish souvenirs, cheap roadside motels and anything else that ca$hes into the American experience of visiting a National Park.
It is in these small entrance towns where photographer Scott Sheffield captured material for his series, Frontiers.
Scott has traveled all over the U.S. to document these places and to understand how they ‘serve as representations of the tourism industry in America.’
“The businesses in place built to serve tourists – motels, attractions, restaurants and souvenir stores – have become the basis for where I stop to take photographs,” Scott explained to It’s Nice That.
“In trying to accurately depict these places I think it’s important to show how these establishments fit into their natural surroundings, which is the main reason so many visitors pass through these towns on their way into or out of the parks.”
“My first trip was to the Great Smoky Mountains, while partially out of convenience due to its location, I knew I would have plenty of ground to cover and things to photograph in its three relatively large entrance towns: Cherokee (North Carolina), Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge (Tennessee),” says Scott.
“Since then I’ve taken two more trips, one to Utah this past winter to photograph Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon and Zion, and the most recent this spring to the Everglades in Florida.”
To capture these towns, Scott wakes up early—even sleeping in a tent or in his car in the parking lot of Walmart stores or Waffle Houses to capture the perfect shot that gives each place an eerie quietness.
Scott’s series is not without intent, either. The photographer’s work makes us think about the ways we can make sure natural landscapes remain unspoiled.
“We have already witnessed so much profound irreversible damage done to the natural wonders of our world because of human actions,” says Scott. “I hope that seeing how these establishments impede upon the natural beauty of the National Parks forces us to do what we can to keep these parks intact and well for many future generations.”
Written by Quinn Segal; All photography by Scott Sheffield.
Gotta capture pictures like Scott? Visit Death Valley, Mammoth Lakes, Yosemite National Park, and Sequoia National Parks as part of Trafalgar’s 8-day/3-city National Parks tour across California.