Profile in Style: Ryann Ford, Author of “The Last Stop: Vanishing Relics of the American Roadside”
How the photographer-turned-author’s signature style comes home
by Mimi Faucett
Photographs by Inti St. Clair and Ryann Ford
These days it’s hard to track down Ryann Ford. The photographer-turned-author recently published “The Last Stop: Vanishing Relics of the American Roadside.” She has spent the past five years road-tripping around the country, shooting hauntingly beautiful images of the classic American rest stop — over 150 of them, to be exact. “I never thought it would become a book,” she says with genuine surprise. But in May, following a wildly successful Kickstarter, her passion project hit shelves.
It was while traveling the Southwest on assignment in 2008 that she first noticed a roadside rest stop and became fascinated. She started researching these artifacts as a possible focus for a photo series and quickly realized their cultural and architectural significance. State budgets were being demolished in the midst of the recession, as were many midcentury pitstops. News of the flattening of a particularly handsome rest stop in Flower Mound, Texas, was her impetus. “I had to shoot it,” says Ford, “and fast.” The rest is history.
Ford always knew she would be a photographer. While studying photography at the prestigious Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara, she took an architecture class and fell in love with the built environment. Upon graduation, she followed friend and fellow photographer Adam Voorhes to Austin, and her career took off. Now, her work can be seen on the glossy pages of Traditional Home, Garden & Gun, Southern Living and many other publications. “I’m definitely drawn to minimalism,” says Ford, and her decidedly modern, unfussy compositions reflect that.
A visit to her home in East Austin’s artsy Agave neighborhood reveals a similarly edited aesthetic. “I love to pair clean, modern pieces with vintage classics,” says the photographer. An antique teapot clock hangs in the kitchen alongside a wall of Rifle Paper Company’s cheerful Rosa wallpaper. In the living room, punchy geometric textiles are coupled with more masculine pieces, like a Danish modern coffee table. She enlisted the help of fellow Austinite Chris McCray to work his architectural magic on some of the home’s key spaces; most notably, an awkwardly small half-room, which was reimagined as a chic breakfast nook. A gallery-style display of national park postcards hints at the photographer’s wanderlust. She explains, “I try to buy one for each national park I visit.” Most of the home’s found objects are scored from Townsend Provisions, a vintage shop nestled in an old farmhouse in Round Top, Texas. Ford co-owns the store, which opened last fall, with her fiancé and their respective mothers (think hip, vintage boots, American-made wares and covetable rustic finds).
“It’s been a bit crazy,” she admits, of her recent simultaneous successes. When we ask what is next on the horizon, Ford just laughs and replies, “A nap, maybe?”
Read more from the Nightlife Issue | August 2016