Laura Barton is a writer and broadcaster. A regular contributor to The Guardian, 1843 magazine and BBC Radio 4 among others, her next book will be Sad Songs, an exploration of music and sadness, to be published by Quercus in October. (February 2020)
Santa Monica, where the wooden pier juts out into the Pacific Ocean, marks the end of Route 66, the mother road for many of those migrating from the eastern states. The great American journey West culminates here, with a Ferris wheel and a candy store, and a branch of the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. It is this short stretch of coast that Sarah Lee began photographing in 2015. Back then, America and the California shoreline seemed to mean something quite different. But as the months unfolded, America’s identity has been reshaped—by an election, by gathering questions about immigration, environment, gender, race, sexual assault, and gun ownership, perhaps even by the meddling of Russia. What the West means has shifted considerably since 1620, too.