Lisa Beggs and her partner, Victor Ving are traveling cross country to grace cities along the way with a mural. Their pursuit is to “create public art that will capture the pride of local residents for their hometowns and spark the interest of visitors and tourists”. Having crossed the US three times, Lisa gives us insight into planning cross country road trips, how to stay healthy while on the road, and even how to stay connected with your “home”.
Meet Lisa Beggs
How did your trip come to be?
One of my grandfathers was a photographer, and the other owned Beggs RV. I put those two together and here I am, a photographer living life on the road in a RV.
Originally from Ohio, I was always the type to get in the car just to go. I have two amazing older sisters and I was the rebellious runaway. I moved to New York to focus on my photo career and that’s where I met Victor (2013) on a DKNY photo shoot in Manhattan. We quickly started traveling together to places like Montreal, California, Aruba and all over New England. We started bouncing ideas off of each other for different projects and after he painted “Greetings from Chinatown” Manhattan, we saw the potential of what the Greetings Tour could be with our powers combined.
I made up “RV Wednesdays” so once a week we could map out the future. Choosing the type of RV was probably the hardest part. We bought it from my brother in-law, Alan back in Ohio (December 2014) and left NY April 28th, 2015.
Your “Greetings Tour” mixes the nostalgia of vintage postcards with the appreciation for modern cities and places. Why do you think others are drawn to your murals?
People are drawn to the Greetings murals for all different reasons. They could be locals with strong hometown pride or visitors in town for the weekend looking for something fun to do. It serves as a great photo opportunity for people of all ages. We chose walls in appropriate neighborhoods that have quickly become popular landmarks. The murals signify the past and history in the making.
The murals signify the past and history in the making
Your work includes street photography and landscapes. How do you balance subject matter as you are traveling the US? How do you incorporate landscape into the greetings murals?
It’s an evolution of work. Recently, I have been focusing on detail, repeating patterns and color combinations. I shoot landscapes when something grabs me and if I have an idea for a test shoot with models, I plan ahead.
Sometimes the beauty overload is exhausting. My first time out to California (2014) I barely put my camera down. I was still shooting that way in the beginning of the Greetings Tour, making sure I didn’t miss anything. Now having seen a lot of the country, I understand my style and what I am looking for to add to my body of work.
In cities we choose to paint in, I spend time around different neighborhoods, researching history and shooting landmarks that make the city unique. I select images to use, and work those into the letters that spell out the city. Victor does the design and painting. We leave a couple letters blank to let the locals put in their word and we select one local artist to incorporate their work.
Which city/place has surprised you the most?
Okay, I will try my best to narrow it down:
Pictured Rocks in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan on Lake Superior was the first place on tour that really surprised me. It reminded me of a mini Big Sur, but in the Midwest! I definitely want to return to witness progression at Crazy Horse in Black Hills, South Dakota. It’s a sculpture being carved out of a mountain since 1948 as a memorial to the Lakota Tribe.
Another place that really opened my eyes was Crater Lake. Driving the rim in a RV was terrifying, but worth staring at that crystal blue lake, a serene scene of a sleeping volcano inside of an erupted volcano. Amazing. I also have to include standing above millions of years of erosion at the Canyonlands in Utah. One more thing! Anything Hawaii. I mean – it’s Hawaii.
You call NYC home. How have you stayed connected while traveling the country?
This is an interesting question because if I left NY on a trip like this 10 years ago, I feel I would have missed it more. Today, there is social media and creative ways to stay connected. Maybe even too connected!
One way I do like to send a hello to family/friends is through snail mail. We keep a collection of vintage Greetings postcards in the RV. Whatever state I am in, I pick that postcard. Friends get an old fashioned “greetings from” wherever I am.
How do you and VV compliment each other? Artistically/otherwise
The first question people ask is if we want to kill each other after living on the road together for 9 months. Victor and I are both extremely easy-going people and this lifestyle just works for us! We look after one another. It’s really that simple.
How do you plan your route?
Well, this probably sounds like a typical Wes Anderson film, but I wake up every morning and stare at the map above my bed to see what looks good. The (accomplished) goal was to spread Greetings murals geographically throughout the states. Next up is Orlando, across the country from where I stand right now. I zigzag to National Parks and cities on my list, at my leisure, until the next painting destination is reached. After crossing the US 3 times, I conclude the best places are the unexpected ones, usually recommended by strangers.
After crossing the US 3 times, I conclude the best places are the unexpected ones, usually recommended by strangers.
Do you have any self-care tips for life on the road?
Absolutely! Before living the RV life, I took for granted the 3 most important things in our generation: water, electric and a good wifi connection. The #1 rule on the Greetings Tour is no fast food. We cook almost every meal in the RV, so to preserve water for that, we don’t use our shower too often.
Planet Fitness has been a nice cushion for whenever I NEED to shave my legs and enjoy a hot shower. With their black membership at $20/mo you can take up to one guest and use any of their locations throughout the US.
One self-care product I’ve been obsessed with since day one is Thayers Rose Water, pictured in my five “must haves” below. I fill an aluminum spray bottle with this facial toner to mist my face whenever I want to freshen up. It smells great and does amazing things for your skin! It is made in the USA, it’s natural/organic, and they don’t test on animals.
Take a photo of your 5 must have items for road travel
You don’t need much…
Map: to plan
Journal: to record
Mamiya: to document
Rose water: to freshen up
A really great mattress: not pictured, but this is definitely a must when you’re on the road for months at a time. Being well rested in unfamiliar places is important.
Where are you now [February 6, 2016] and where will you be in one month?
I am here in sunny Los Angeles!
“Greetings from San Diego” was just painted in North Park, an up-and-coming neighborhood I really enjoyed there. I had the opportunity to photograph the San Diego Ballet dancing in front of the mural when it was completed. We wrapped and I quickly had to get back to LA for meetings and freelance work.
California has been a very hard place to leave! I had the endless summer idea lingering in my mind after barely surviving those brutal NY winters. It’s now February and just the other day I sat outside in a t-shirt, watching the pink sun fall into ocean with a girlfriend from college who was also in LA for work. That’s one great thing about bigger cities – you can catch friends that travel through.
Within the next month I will be leaving the west coast to head right through the southern states. The plan is to drive through Phoenix, El Paso, Austin (excited since I’ve never been!) and finally Florida. A lot of people hate on the state of Florida, but I disagree. My grandfather was a photographer there in the 60s, which is why I became a photographer myself. He shot postcards, which makes this tour a full circle thing for me. I plan to archive his 40-year career and design a book of his beautiful film work he left behind.
It’s been 9 months on the road and the RV feels like home now. When I left NY, the plan was to be gone for just one year, but this tour doesn’t feel quite finished yet. We have an apartment to go back to in Manhattan, but the open road has been too good. I recently had a discussion with Victor about Alaska Summer 2017. We shall see!
Photos (C) Lisa Beggs
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