Michael Campanelli once took the route less traveled - it certainly has made a difference.
Campanelli is well known for his photographs of Route 66. His photos have appeared in exhibits at Hot August Nights in Sparks, Nev., during the National Route 66 Festival; in Holbrook; Standin' on the Corner Days in Winslow; and a number of other places.
Currently, more than 150 of his 20-inch by 30-inch photographs of the famous route are on display in the Mohave Museum of History and Arts in Kingman.
Campanelli has been taking photographs as a hobby for around 35 years.
In 2002, he was planning a road trip from his home in Eagle Point, Ore., to Detroit, where he grew up. In order to make the trip more enjoyable, he decided to take a more scenic route, Route 66.
He picked up remnants of the old route in Santa Monica, Calif., and eight days and 1,100 photos later, left the route in Michigan. He tried to travel as much of the original route as he could find, but in some places the route no longer exists. Many times he was the sole vehicle on the road; other times the route ran next to a modern day interstate.
A glimmer of the glory of the old route can still be seen through the faded signs, the chipped and peeling paint of service stations and the classic roadside attractions Campanelli captures in his photographs. "I didn't know where any of this stuff was," he said.
Campanelli uses a simple 35 mm single lens reflex film camera. He doesn't believe in digital. The quality just isn't there yet, he said, and there's just something about film that he likes more.
He admits that there are some neat tricks that a photographer can do with a digital camera and computer, but he likes the challenge of catching exactly what he sees with film. It doesn't feel manipulated like a digital photo can, he said.
The photos also show the weathered and wise faces of some of the residents who still live and work along the route that he met during his trip.
Campanelli didn't just gather photographs as he made his way to Detroit; he collected a few friends as well. He said the first time he traveled the route he didn't have much time to stop and actually chat for very long with some of the people that he met.
Since then he has returned to travel the route many times and has collected more photographs and friends, the kind of friends that you can have a good conversation with over coffee, leave for a few years and return only to pick up that conversation right where you left off, he said.
It wasn't until three years after that first trip along Route 66 in 2002 that Campanelli decided to create a show out of the photos he had taken.
He was surprised about the mania that seems to surround the old route.
"People get so excited about this stuff. It's unbelievable," he said.
He was asked to show his work at Hot August Nights in Nevada and the number of shows has snowballed from there. He said it seems as if every time he travels to set up the photo exhibit for a show, he meets someone else who is interested in having the show come to their town. In the last 12 months, he has made at least 10 trips with the exhibit.
And while the trips are as far away from Oregon as Texas or Oklahoma, he really doesn't mind the trip. He packs all the photos and his easels into a rented moving van and just drives. The trips not only give him a good chance to show off his work but a chance to pick up some new photographs along the way.
Campanelli's Route 66 photographs can be seen in the Mohave Museum of History and Arts, 400 West Beale St., through June 10. Those interested in Route 66 memorabilia might also want to check out the Powerhouse just down the Mother Road.