Souders began this new series in March, 2020, while living in rural upstate New York. The pictures were taken through screened windows, tangled branches, and spreading leaves. As a result, the photographs are imbued with a sense of the passing of real time. The bare branches of early spring give way to buds, then to obscuring leaves of summer, to radiant autumn foliage, and finally to quiet drifts of snow.
End of the Road captures many facets unique to this moment in history. New routines, or lack thereof; distance and isolation; contemplation and wandering; an ethos of “back to nature”; and life’s re-alignments. Souders herself found a new rhythm; setting aside time every day to photograph the cul-de-sac, experiencing ritual through seeing. She observed her subjects as characters in short stories. Some people had recurring roles. Others – seen only once – became mysterious figures, inviting imagination. This active seeing possesses a contemplative quality, and however briefly, ties a thread of connection between the artist and subject, even in this time of physical distance.
Similarly, the people in the images were creating new habits, which Souders observed in their daily perambulations. This kind of walking, fully embodied, is not only a mode of transportation, but a moving meditation. Writer Rebecca Solnit describes it as, “the intentional act closest to the unwilled rhythms of the body, to breathing and the beating of the heart. It strikes a delicate balance between working and idling, being and doing. It is a bodily labor that produces nothing but thoughts, experiences, arrivals.”
These journeys are significant in both their physicality and symbolism. Arriving at a literal dead end, each pedestrian must walk back the way they came. And while this return is universal, in the world of End of the Road, what the path offers to those who take it is always different.