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Forget the Garmin. Linda Bruckheimer just wants to drive and take pictures.

“Roy’s Cafe” will be part of the exhibit at the Carnegie Center.
“Roy’s Cafe” will be part of the exhibit at the Carnegie Center.

Linda Bruckheimer says she became hooked on road trips as a teenager, when her family moved from Kentucky to California. Her mom was determined to take the iconic Route 66, before interstate highways became the principal east-to-west route as millions of families migrated to California.

“That trip was quite an adventure. It sold me on road trips. I’m a huge fan,” Bruckheimer said. “There’s nothing like the freedom of being in a car and driving across America, or driving through any part of America. There’s something unexpected and exciting around every corner.”

With camera in hand, she’s on the lookout for that unexpected scene, that serendipitous moment that touches her heart as it captures her eye as a photographer. It might be a vacant barn, a rusty sign or clothes drying on a clothesline in a backyard, but it’s a scene that radiates authenticity for that time and place.

As she heads out on a photo adventure, she avoids main roads.

And forget Google or Garmin.

“I don’t like anything that tells you how you have to go to get where you’re going. I don’t know where I’m going when I get in the car,” she said in a phone interview from her home in Los Angeles.

“Freedom for me is behind the wheel of a car with no particular place to go. We’ve often got to the quintessential fork in the road, and I stop for a moment. OK, am I going toward Nashville or Memphis? The wheel turns. All right, I’m on my way to Memphis, and off we go.”.

Blue Swallow Motel (IMG_1443)
“Blue Swallow Motel” will be one of the photographs on display at the Carnegie Center. Linda Bruckheimer

An exhibit of her photographs, “Greetings from Roadside America: From Harlem to Hollywood,” opens Friday for Gallery Hop at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning. The exhibit will be accompanied by a reception, where you can meet her.

The journey starts in New York City’s Harlem and goes through the Carolinas, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, the Southwest and California. Some photographs were taken 12 years ago, some in the past six months.

All are from driving trips, when she frequently was accompanied by one of her sisters.

“I usually drive,” she said. “Most of the photographs are taken from the car. I either jump out and really quickly shoot, or I roll down the window and manage to get what I want, and we keep going.”

Bruckheimer is known for her photographs of Kentucky. She had an exhibit last year at My Old Kentucky Home in Bardstown. Currently, “Family Gathering: Linda Bruckheimer’s Kentucky” is on display at the Frazier Museum in Louisville. Originally scheduled to close the end of January, the exhibit has been extended until Sept. 29.

In addition to photography, Bruckheimer is a novelist, a film producer and a preservationist. She was raised in Kentucky, and her family moved to California. The trip inspired her novels “Dreaming Southern” and “The Southern Bells of Honeysuckle Way.”

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Linda and Jerry Bruckheimer attended the world premiere of Jerry Bruckheimer’s movie “12 Strong” on Jan. 16 in New York. Linda’s photography show, ““Greetings from Roadside America: From Harlem to Hollywood” goes on exhibit Jan. 19 at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning in Lexington. Evan Agostini Invision/AP

She divides her time between her historical farm in Nelson County and Los Angeles, where she lives with her husband, film and television producer Jerry Bruckheimer. His latest movie, “12 Strong,” opens nationwide Friday and includes Lexington native Michael Shannon in its cast.

In 1998, the Bruckheimers bought several turn-of-the-century buildings in downtown Bloomfield, in Nelson County. The buildings once housed a pool hall, a movie theater, a furniture store and the Bloomfield Free Public Library. The restored structures became The Old Sugar Valley Country Store and Nettie Jarvis Antiques.

In 2017, Linda Bruckheimer received the Ida Lee Willis Memorial Award from the Kentucky Heritage Council for her preservation work in the Commonwealth.

Her passion for photography grew out of a desire to capture images of people, places and scenes “that are so important for me and that are changing so quickly, almost everywhere. It’s become almost a documentary of the past, and little glimpses of the future.”

From year to year, she revisits a place she’d seen a year or two earlier, “and you already see signs of 2018 creeping in,” she said.

“I don’t know where you have to go to be more than one mile away from a McDonald’s. And it’s not McDonald’s. I have nothing against McDonald’s. But when you think you are out in the wild blue yonder, you look and here’s a sign for a familiar franchise. You just realize you can’t get too far away, ever.”

Beverly Fortune: beverlyfortune123@gmail.com

If you go

“Greetings from Roadside America: From Harlem to Hollywood”

What: Photographs by Linda Bruckheimer, who will be at a reception accompanying the exhibit.

Where: Carnegie Center for Literacy & Learning, 251 W. Second St.

When: Through March 9. Gallery Hop reception with Bruckheimer 5 to 8 p.m. Friday.

Admission: Free

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