Cooperative of Photography

Investigating America’s Roadside Attractions


Marissa Gawel is a photojournalist based in Detroit, MI and former public radio broadcaster. Marissa was awarded a grant from National Geographic in 2015, for documenting the stories of the individuals behind America’s roadside attractions, art environments and folk museums. We asked Marissa to choose some of her best images, and give us the low down, for this curated PROFOLIO. 

Marissa Gawel COOPH001

Old Car City - White, GA

For me, the difficulty of photographing these larger-than-life spaces and collections is trying to replicate the feeling of a visit here. Though there's no sense of the 4,000 other cars that populate Dean Lewis's property, this accumulation of naked dolls in a classic car captures the tone of Old Car City.

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MBAD African Bead Museum - Detroit, MI

What I love about many art environments around the US, is how it can often seem as if they arise from nothing. They take over city blocks but leave the Pest Control Supply Co. unharmed. Residents walk by often enough that a multicolored installation, becomes a normal part of the neighborhood.

Marissa Gawel COOPH003

Bill’s Birds - Loogootee, IN

Bill Larkin will welcome you into his geodesic dome before you’ve even said “hello.” He’s proud of the house he’s created for himself—a space that bursts with color and seeks to make up for the drab, windowless office he spent most of his life working in.

Marissa Gawel COOPH004

The House on the Rock - Spring Green, WI

How do you photograph a place that can barely be described in words? You wander around it until the outside world completely disappears and you become transfixed by a carousel rumored to be a portal to the gods.

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Boggy Creek Monster - Fouke, AR

I couldn’t find the real Boggy Creek Monster (a sasquatch-like creature in Arkansas), but settled for a photo of the statue. It stands a block north of convenience store dedicated to the monster.

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Paradise Garden - Summerville, GA

I was told this is what Paradise Garden’s creator Howard Finster would look like if he were made out of gutters and spouts.

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The Mindfield - Brownsville, TN

Billy Tripp, creator of the Mindfield says, “The bigger and better story to my work is the community's story, although that story is not mine. Mine is small and kind of cryptic, private and rather untranslatable beyond what I put out there, as I expect most individual lives and worths are.”

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James Tellen Woodland Sculpture Garden - Black River, WI

I once spent a few weeks driving around Lake Michigan, hoping men of stone wouldn’t come to life and attack me. They didn’t and I lived to share this photo.

Written by Rowynn Dumont

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