Convenience Store, Waddy, Kentucky, and other difficulties


Came across this place along the I-64 littoral one exit west of Frankfort, Kentucky. There’s not much there, where KY 395 cuts across the interstate between Waddy and Peytonia. On the north side of the exit there’s a Flying J truck stop.

Flying J, Waddy KY

South of it, there’s a derelict convenience store / gas station. Until recently, when I stopped to photograph it, I had never even noticed it, though it’s clearly visible from the interstate. I’m not sure what damaged the building, or how long it has been in this dilapidated state. Parts of it look burned, while others appear heavily water-damaged. Perhaps a fire, plus the inevitable watery after-effects of firefighting?


Beyond each of these establishments in either direction, KY 395 leads off into the wild hinterlands of central Kentucky—a lush, beautiful landscape in a state which, in many ways, remains to me a foreign land. In this, my eleventh year as a Kentuckian, I am still trying to make sense of the place and its people. For me that means making images.

I’ve been photographing intermittently for some time around a loose theme of “I-64”. Interstate 64 starts in St. Louis, wending its way eastward through the Midwest to hop the Ohio River at Louisville. Its route through Kentucky scythes off a sliver of the state’s northern hump, sweeping through Frankfort and Lexington—the Bluegrass, horse country—before crossing the Big Sandy River south of Ashland into wild, wonderful West Virginia. My piece of this ferroconcrete ribbon connects Louisville to Frankfort, a stretch of 30 miles or so comprising my daily commute for six-odd years now. Each day I get into my car, hermetically sealed from the small towns and farms I see as a blur beyond the safety glass between us. I’m passing through, just a tourist on my way to work, but I wonder about the people and places I pass along the shore of this manmade river I navigate twice a day.

Mostly, I have shot images of the man-marked landscape of houses and business establishments along my route: truck stops with semis clustered at their diesel pumps like cats around a milk bowl; suburban cul-de-sacs a place-kick away from the highway; traffic cones and concrete barriers and Wal-Marts and Waffle Houses to the left and right. I see these things, and photograph them, but remain detached and isolated as I zoom blithely by, or away. I still haven’t gotten my hands around a direction or thrust for the work; it has yet to coalesce. My inertia-driven non-strategy has been just to keep shooting and hope something emerges.

When I hear of other photographers working on “projects”, I am struck with wonder and envy. Do these endeavors spring whole from their brains before the first press of the shutter; or is “project” a post-facto term of art applied once the images are shot and the connection between them reveals itself? For me—if it happens at all—it has always been the latter. I tend to be an ad-hoc shooter, knowing that my eye naturally returns to certain recurring themes: color, geometry, symmetry, irony, kitsch, out-of-place-ness. With this incubating I-64 endeavor, I am struggling to find an overall storyline with the images, or a direction for further work. Very frustrating.


6 thoughts on “Convenience Store, Waddy, Kentucky, and other difficulties

  1. So, Mike, glad to see you can not only still stay up until 3am but are rather productive with your “wits about you”…so much that you can pen such a descriptive explanation of your photo work. I’m rather impressed. Me, I fall into bed about 11 and read a trashy novel.


  2. hi mike-

    i grew up in shelby county, so it’s good to see waddy in it’s beauty (there IS a lot of it) and it’s quirks (the truck stop!). driving on those country roads on a sunny day just can’t be beat. thanks for sharing.


  3. Mike,
    The delapidated building you show was the restaurant building from a truck stop that was recently closed. The building was partially torn down at the time as many items were removed for recycle. That building has now been torn completely down and Love’s is constructing a new building for a truck stop planned to open next spring.


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