Edward Keating, Pulitzer-winning and photographer of Route 66, dies

Edward Keating, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize in photography who spent years documenting Route 66, died Sunday. He was 65.

His wife, Carrie, broke the news about Keating’s passing Monday on Facebook. She did not disclose his cause of death. His brother-in-law said Keating’s wife and two daughters were by his side when he “peacefully” died.

Keating won the Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for his photo coverage of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City.

He also spent years on the Mother Road, documenting everyday people’s struggles to survive on a highway that declined after the interstates bypassed it.

A total of 84 images of Route 66 from 2000 to 2011 made their way into a book published in 2018, “Main Street: The Lost Dream of Route 66” (Amazon link). You can read the Route 66 News review here.

Here’s a video about the book:

Keating wrote an essay about Route 66 in New York Times Magazine in 2000 and how a road trip on it indirectly led to his kicking a drinking problem. An excerpt:

It’s a traveling road but more than anything people just live their lives there. A baby waits on the restaurant floor in his car seat for his mother to get off work. A middle-aged stripper on her break sits at the bar with her customers. A salesman delivers Gideon Bibles to a hotel. A homeless man in his two-tone tuxedo finishes up a doughnut late at night. People who live and work here feel some pride, but it’s the pride of the underdog and the loser. Since the interstate displaced Route 66 some year’s back, the better businesses moved, taking along the jobs and the money. What’s left is there because things were well built back then. Besides, it would cost too much to tear things down. The nostalgia craze sweeping cash-and-credit-rich America plays a part in it, but not much.

Some of Keating’s Route 66 images may be seen in a slideshow below.

More Route 66 images may be seen on Keating’s website.

I met Keating in person once at a Tucumcari Route 66 restaurant a few years ago, about the time the book was being edited by its publisher. (He consulted me for information about a few images.) We talked for at least three hours, though it didn’t seem that long.

In addition to Route 66, we shared a love of the dark allure and grimy grooves of the Rolling Stones’ music. He saw the darkness in a lot of things, but he didn’t let it drag him down.

UPDATE 10/1/2021: The New York Times, Keating’s former employer, posted an obituary.

(Screen-capture image of Edward Keating from 2018 documentary about his “Main Street: The Lost Dream of Route 66” book)

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