John Stezaker's Blind

I’ve just found out about this, and it might drive a slight tweak to my essay - it’s probably worth a mention and certainly seems relevant in the context of my own work with movies.


America By Car

Lee Friedlander’s America by Car - a book I have looked at more than once...


T4 : The Diesel Process

The process of soaking my prints in diesel is now pretty much finished, but as has been suggested, I’ve recorded the process. It’s really quite straight forward – I put prints in a baking tray with diesel for a week, letting them soak. Longer might be better, it might be though, I’ve not really got time to truly experiment during the exploratory project. Not if I’m to get something that’s “finished”, which I know isn’t absolutely essential, but I want to get something finished. It doesn’t sit well with me not to do so. After soaking in the diesel, I’ve been soaking them in a washing detergent solution with the aim of removing some of the traces of the fuel. I’ve no idea whether this actually works, but is based on the fact I know that some decorators using the detergent to remove traces of white spirit from their brushes after using oil-based paints. Then they are put to dry for a few days.

diesel soak
Beeline, Holbrook in the old baking tray

detergent soak
Soaking in the detergent

diesel detail

detergent detail

The tray is an old rusting one, well past its best, and as a result of this, some of the images are beginning to exhibit small spots of discolouring which adds some further randomness and interest. AS the images dry, they begin to exhibit the speckling – they’re just wet and translucent beforehand. Of course, if viewed against a dark background, they actually don’t look that different from when they’re unprocessed.


T4 : Group Critique

The small group critique of progress in the exploratory project was an interesting experience. The caution I feel in trying to explain my thinking about my work is slowly beginning to leave me, but it's still not something I truly relish. The work I presented is as follows:

Ed Ruscha, Whiting Bros. near Ludlow, California, 1953

Whiting Bros, near Ludlow, California [Jul 2012]

Rimmy Jim's, Arizona [Oct 2011]

Whiting Bros, near Ludlow, California [Jul 2012]

Texaco, Barrow, Lancashire

Texaco, Longridge, Lancashire


  • Does the act of attacking the print with diesel add anything interesting to the GSV images? (aesthetically or conceptually - or is it just pretentious?)
  • Other than the fact they’re petrol stations, are the two parts of the project actually related in any way, or do I just drop the local photographs?

There was some talk about the process I was following, how the bathing of the prints in a tray of diesel is reminiscent of the analogue printing process. Indeed I was asked if I had a darkroom for making my own prints, but whilst I can develop negatives (if I was to buy the chemicals once more), I am unable to print myself - I don't have an enlarger. Or the space to make a darkroom for that matter (for the negs, you just need a drum). Is this fact really important to me? I'm not really sure it is. I know for some, the process to get to the end result is all important, but for me... I think the final image is where it's at, actually, no, it's the narrative that is formed by the images in groups. When I photograph "normally", as with the last two images above, there is not a lot I do with the image, maybe a slight tweak to the highlights and shadows to ensure there's no "paper white" and some range in darker areas, but that's it - similar to a quick dodge and burn in the old darkroom days.

Something else that was mentioned that does arise from the process is that the residual smell of diesel that remains on the prints after they've been washed - the smell reinforces the connection to the subject matter and the process by which the images were made.. It's possibly a touch overpowering, but then again there's still a tray of diesel in my garage (where the prints are at the moment), but I'm hoping that there will be something left and that it will be possible to show the prints. Having said that, I'm still planning to rephotograph the prints with the thought of putting them in to a book. In a book, clearly there will be no diesel smell.

A popular proposal amongst the cohort was that I should draw on the images. I'm really not comfortable with this and would not be intending to do so. What has drawing got to do with my practice? Taking the comments from Lisa Barnard on board, surely this would serve to further weaken my larger body of work, which she saw as disjointed anyway. I'm still in the process of recontextualising my back catalogue, weaving what is there into something that might be considered more cohesive (bearing in mind that there's various styles of work in there). Enough of that for the moment, I don't consider drawing on the images to be appropriate for me.

I was also encouraged to continue both sides of the project, continue to photograph the local petrol stations. I'll do this, maybe on the back-burner though. I'll be concentrating on the "diesel" images for the moment.

Finally, Emma made a really generous offer to produce a couple of polyester litho prints (her school has the facilities). This means I will be able to experiment with a different paper/ink combo in the diesel. When they arrive in the post, I'll do what I need to do to them with the diesel and take it from there - it might be a little late but it's worth the effort.


Rencontre avec David Campany / Road Trips: Voyages photographiques à travers l’Amérique

Courtesy of Bal Books - bookshop at Le Bal, Paris. (The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip)


Gluten Free

I came across the Gluten Free Museum the other day, the Tumblr of Arthur Coulet who detournes well known popular imagery (from art, cinema and advertising) to remove the gluten, i.e. any grain based foods or the grains themselves. Whilst much of the work he has updated (using Photoshop - he teaches image manipulation) will be in the public domain, the paintings especially, not all of it will be. I'm specifically thinking the Disney image from Lady and the Tramp. I don't know if this work is sold in any way, or if it's just a light hearted project highlighting coeliac disease. Would it make a difference if he did?

T4 : Progress to plan

Things are not progressing as initially anticipated, but that's because the project has changed at the moment (and may well change again after the next couple of weeks of crits). Here's what I originally anticipated:

Week 1: deciding what to do and writing the proposal

Week 2: initial research into Ruscha’s style and approach, his route through America and my route through England

Week 3: continue research

Week 4: start making images (either GSV captures or real world)

Week 5: continue making images

Week 6: reflection and down select images

Week 7: (Easter - in France)

Week 8: image sequencing

Week 9: book design

Week 10: reflection and book refinement

Week 11: printing

Week 12: contingency (will depend on printing methods)

Well, it's week 9 and I should be starting the book design... But no. I'm still working on the images, so things will be tight (which is why the diesel is currently just a week, instead of the initial two). That said, if I do go with a book it will need less designing as the obvious thing would be to follow the original sequencing (so why not mix them up into 'proper' geographical order?). But I might not even put them in a book. The photographs look interesting as objects when backlit, so that seems to be an option, although I'm really not that confident it can be done as the lamp would raise the temperature and make the diesel a problem (diesel needs a higher temperature to burn, which is why diesel engines are generally heavier and more expensive to allow for the pressurised hot air and the fact that there's no spark plugs). I don't know enough about the science to be truly confident though... I'm also not sure if washing in detergent will do enough. I'm glad I had a week as contingency, and also that there is another couple of weeks afterwards before the package of work will have to head on over to OCA in Barnsley for appraisal.

T4 : Shell, Daggett, California

I've had a second batch of images in diesel for a week and thought it was about time to take them out - not as long this time but I figure that I need to get this done for mid-May so I needed to get a move on. They could also go back in if necessary. This one has also been "washed" to try and remove the diesel, just in case I wanted to put them in light boxes. Again, I've just taken an iPhone photograph but this time it's much greyer. Obviously, the white balance control of the iPhone (at least in the basic camera app) is non-existent, so that might be a reason, but the earlier one (with a little over 2-weeks soaking) is much bluer (first one included for reference, below). Another effect of the diesel, or just the light? I don't know, but I will be re-soaking a larger version of Whiting Bros anyway, then re-photographing them all in the same conditions once they're all soaked, rinsed and dried (in a few weeks time). If necessary/desired I might then normalise them again in PS - it depends how I feel about it.

Shell, Daggett, California [July 2012]
Shell, Daggett, California [July 2012]

untitled (1 of 1)
Whiting Bros, near Ludlow, California [Jul 2012]


T4 : The great American road trip

The American road trip has been something creatives have returned to over the years. There's the gasoline stations painted by Hopper and Ruscha and the photographs of many others (see this post), there's movies like It happened one night, Easy Rider and Thelma and Louise and then there's (Get your kicks on) Route 66 from Nat King Cole (and covered by others) and of course Jack Kerouac's On the Road. In terms of photography, we can actually go beyond the gas stations and see that the road trip is almost a rite of passage. The road trip seems to be as American as apple pie (not sure how American this actually is, in real terms). There's even companies set up to make your own American road trip something of an easier proposition to organise. I've fancied it myself for many a year; the California coast road, a tour of New England and yes, Route 66 (or what's left of it). Of those photographers that have done the road trip thing (and there are too many to mention them all), the following are a few I'm aware of.

Robert Frank's seminal book Les Americains (The Americans) is up there as one of the most widely known photobooks ever produced, it's been an inspiration to many artists including the likes of Martin Parr. The project he proposed was to travel the country freely and produce a visual study of the people that took 8 months in the mid-1950s. Almost 800 rolls of film showed "popular culture, music, religion, the hollow mass media, racial tensions, class tensions, and the all encompassing obsession with the automobile." (Campany, p42). It's not really about the road, it's about the people, but it was only possible because of the road.

Frank 2
Robert Frank, Drive in Movie, Detroit (The Americans)

Frank 1
Robert Frank, US285, New Mexico (The Americans)

An interesting contemporary riff on Frank's book was recently done by
Mishka Henner; in Less Americains he has removed much of the content from the photographs to produce "less"... Perhaps a little to extreme for my taste, but a truly interesting concept and body of work.

Less Americains
Mishka Henner,
Less Americains

Stephen Shore will perhaps be primarily known for being one of the colour innovators. He once said that America was "made for long trips", and I guess that means it's a big old place. England isn't made for long trips, well, not very long ones anyway. For me, Shore's use of colour (along with a couple of others) is something that now represents America in the 70s, although I never saw it first hand the period has a certain 'feel' to it, the light has a certain quality. Shore also tends to capture something of the distance and openness in his photographs that I like and seek for myself. An early project, Uncommon Places, features about 700 photographs shot over 11 years, which were edited down to 49 (often but not exclusively intersections and roadsides) for the exhibition in 1982.

Shore 2
Stephen Shore, Sutter Street and Crestline Road, Fort Worth, Texas, June 3, 1976 (Uncommon Places)

Shore 1
Stephen Shore, US2, Ironwood, Michigan, July 9, 1973 (Uncommon Places)

There is something I really like in
Todd Hido's A Road Divided. They're incredibly poetic for a start, bringing to mind many experiences of being in a car, the windscreen covered in condensation. Other than the condensation, they're ostensibly of "nothing", that thing that I like to photograph myself, nothing except a nondescript piece of road, a hint of a tree or some road furniture. It's minimal, muted and above all it captures that sort of soft light that seems to be Hido's "thing". This is all about the space between the gasoline stations, the motels and all of the other things that appear to be the subject of the other photographers that work the road trip.

Hido 2
Todd Hido, A Road Divided

Todd Hido, #7557 (A Road Divided)

Other photographs of the American road trip include:

Alec Soth

Soth 1
Alec Soth,
Cadillac Motel, 2006 (From here to there: Alec Soth's America)

Soth 2
Alec Soth,
Harper's Ferry, 2002 (L) Cemetery, Fountain Way, Wisconsin, 2002 (R) (From here to there: Alec Soth's America)

Soth 3
Alec Soth,
Thirty-Three theatres and a Funeral Home, 2006 (From here to there: Alec Soth's America)

Lee Friedlander

Friedlander 1
Lee Friedlander, America by Car

Friedlander 2
Lee Friedlander,
untitled (America by Car)

Joel Sternfield

Joel Sternfeld, After a flash flood, Rancho Mirage, California, July 1979 (The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip)

Christian Patterson

Patterson 1
Christian Patterson, Untitled (Redheaded Peckerwood)

Patterson 2
Christian Patterson, Untitled (Redheaded Peckerwood)

Shinya Fujiwara

Shinya Fujiwara, Untitled (The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip)

One of my favourite road trip books actually comes from Japan; Yutaka Takahashi's Toshi-e (Towards the City).

Takanashi 1
Yutaka Takanashi, Toshi-e (Towards the City)

takanashi 2
Yutaka Takanashi,
Untitled (Toshi-e)

In England, there's shorter versions - Paul Graham's The Great North Road, or Simon Roberts' We English for example. I'll maybe add something about these at a later date.


Campany, D (2014)
The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip. New York. Aperture Foundation.

Frank, R (2008)
The Americans. Göttingen. Steidl.

Friedlander, L (2010)
America by Car. New York. Distributed Art Publishers, Inc.

Hido, T (2010)
A Road Divided. Portland. Nazraeli Press LLC.

Patterson, C (2011)
Redheaded Peckerwood. London. Mack

Shore, S (2004)
Uncommon Places: The complete works. 2008 edition. London. Thames & Hudson Ltd.

Soth, A (2010)
From here to there: Alec Soth's America. Minneapolis. Walker Art Center.

Takanashi, Y (2010)
Toshi-e (Towards the City). New York. Errata Editions

Mishka Henner -


T4 : Jeff Brouws comes through

I received a response from Jeff Brouws, so I can now complete my project:

Hi Rob:

No problem at all in terms of contacting me...we're all brothers here.
I can't say why we made the determination we diid, but we went with the building that was at 3500 North Broadway. I felt that the buildings in the background to the right could have been the same ones in Ruscha's photo, but modified since Ruscha's took the picture.
Not certain however. Hope this helps. It's a burrito / taco stand now. We ate was great.
I realized after the fact that MM had done a "best guess" in certaini towns and that was fine.
I believe I did locate Rimmy Jimmy's in AZ...there was a definite foundation there and the owner of the present gas station there had a picture of the former Rimmy Jimmy's hanging on the wall and knew where the original location had been.
Exit 233, to the slight SE behind the gas station.



And here is the assumed site of Bob's Service - a little in contradiction from what Möll stated in his e-mail, but it is the place he photographed back in 2009.

untitled (1 of 1)-Edit-Edit
Bob's Service, Los Angeles, California [Sep 2014]


T4 : Some progress perhaps...

Some progress on a number of counts this week…

Firstly, I’ve completed the first draft of the essay. It will change in some way, the conclusion isn’t right and I need to get it tighter, but I think I’ll let it lie for a week first (not too long though)

MA1 Essay DRAFT1 (password protected - e-mail me if you want to read it)

Secondly, I have had a response from Martin Möll about the location of Bob’s Service in LA. As it happens, he’s not actually sure, but he sent me some information anyway:

Hi Rob,

Thank you for your e-mail. I’m glad to hear that my work has been a great help so far for your own project.
To be honest, Bob’s Service in L.A. is one of the few sites I can’t with a 100% certainty say that I am right with my choice.

Here’s what I wrote down for my own purposes after visiting L.A. in 2009:

“The Los Angeles Central Library downtown has the
1962 yellow pages on micro fiche. After two hours
going through listings of service stations, gasoline
companies, automobile repairs and services as well as
restaurants, the following information was found:

– There are no listings for Bob‘s Seaside Service, there
were a few Seaside Service Stations, but not one near
Route 66 at that time. There were four Bob‘s Service.
Two of them are too far off from Route 66, one is on
3500 North Broadway (Route 66 from 1926 until 1931)
and one is four blocks south of Santa Monica Boulevard
(Route 66 from 1953 until 1964).”

Since Ruscha photographed each of the sites in 1962, I chose to photograph the former place of the Seaside Service south of Santa Monica Boulevard.

However, it is possible that Jeff Brouws could provide you with a different information, since he revisited the sites only last year. Together we work on the project to revisit the revisited.

I’m interested to hear more about your project and would appreciate it if you could tell me in more detail about it.

And I hope my information is of any help to you.

Kind regards

I was aware of a Bob’s Air Service on Wilshire Blvd, which is south of Santa Monica Blvd (not sure what constitutes a “block” in America…) I’m really not sure this is the place though. I have now contacted Jeff Brouws, hopefully he will get back to me soon with something more definitive. I’ve not heard from the others I’ve contacted (from Road to Ruscha, etc.)

The other thing that I think is quite positive is the effect putting diesel has had on my test prints. This came through as an idea following discussions with Lisa Barnard, and initially it didn’t look like it was doing anything – I was hoping it would affect the image, but I experimented anyway, using a spare commercial digital lab print I had, together with a few different papers through my inkjet. The commercial print didn’t really do much, but I did get an interesting effect from a matte paper as the diesel makes it largely translucent if you hold it to the light. It also makes them smell, but that’s another issue. The photo below is just a test print, but I like what it has done after about 2 weeks – it mirrors the fact that the gasoline stations have largely disappeared (there’s maybe just the Jackrabbit one that is still operational, but I can’t really tell). If you lay it down, it feels much more like a “normal” print though.

Whiting Bros, near Ludlow, California [Jul 2012]

This leads me to wonder whether light boxes would be the way to go (or is it a fire hazard, bearing in mind they’re soaked in diesel!)? And do they stand up in isolation and therefore not need the local works in juxtaposition? Something to discuss over the next few weeks in the group crit and tutorial, see what others see in there.

The above is just a 15x10cm print, so I’ve done some a little larger (limited by size of my diesel tray) and will see how we get on after a week – time is running out I guess, so if I can squeeze the soaking time, it would help.


Art & Appropriation

A useful video...