Andy Warhol's Dead

A sort of mini-project, sort of titled in my usual way after a song (Andy Warhol’s Dead by Transvision Vamp this time) – 32 tins of tomato soup to the same approximate dimensions of Warhol’s Campbell’s soup cans. Appropriation of an idea, twisting it to my own chosen media, and my own preferred soup flavour. Photography of a “readymade”?
Andy Warhol's Dead

Tomato Soup (after Andy Warhol)

Does this fit in any way with my supposed “grand narrative”? Well, I suppose it’s similar to the objects in A Forest, although that’s where I think the connections start and end. Does this matter in the great scheme of things? Am I what Lisa Barnard expects me to be/interprets me as wanting to be? Am I too superficial in my making? In my ideas? I think I’m getting closer to the realisation that if I work one theme, a grand narrative, I will soon tire and give up. This random approach may well dilute my work, confuse my oeuvre and ultimately deny me any sort of recognition within the outside world (and possibly even an MA), but it is more in keeping with my own psyche, my own way of doing things and my own raison d’être. Should I strive to produce the work that others expect of me, or what interests me? Even if that interest is only in transitory.


Gasoline and the American Temple

I’m in the midst of writing a prolonged journal entry on the American road trip and photography to follow up the one the other day about the gasoline station. As a result of digging around on the subject, the other day I ordered a copy of David Campany’s Gasoline, which is about that very thing, and today I saw a tweet from ASX about it…

ASX: Gasoline and the American Temple

The book’s not arrived yet, but it should be good…


T4 : 6 to 9 Petrol Stations (inclusive)

Firstly, just a note to say I've contacted Todd Stewart (one of the Oklahoma University faculty) by e-mail to request permission to use some of his Ruscha images as reference, and also to ask if he can help me in tracking down Bob's Service in LA. If they visited them all, hopefully he will.

And here's some more petrol stations photographed within the Ribble Valley...
Shell, Longridge, Lancashire

Shell, Longridge, Lancashire
Texaco, Clitheroe, Lancashire
Texaco, Clitheroe, Lancashire

Texaco, Longridge, Lancashire
Texaco, Longridge, Lancashire

BP, Clitheroe, Lancashire
BP, Clitheroe, Lancashire



A bit of a diversion, something I had been considering as a possible project but I decided there wasn’t enough in it to be the final project. Appropriation of another idea, this time it’s Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s soup tins. I had wanted to do the full 32 tins of Campbell’s soup, but there’s only half a dozen or so that are available in the UK so I moved over to something a bit more personal; tomato soup is the flavour I eat 99% of the time, to it seemed completely appropriate. A typology of tomato soup tins so tying into my interest in that mode of working, and it’s nodding towards the work of Warhol and my chosen essay subject of appropriation in photography.

It’s only 16 tins at the moment, there
might be enough own brand tomato soup tins to take it to the “magic” 32. Do I bother? Perhaps I should, but then I’d have to leave the setup or rephotograph them all in order to be “the same”. Once set up, I suppose they don’t take long to do though, once set up. More tins would then allow there to be more space between the Heinz, allowing them to appear more “random”. And of course, these would need to be printed and framed individually and presented in an 8 x 4 grid…

Something to think about.


T4 : A little "bonus"

Whilst I've been going around searching for petrol stations, it's been increasingly obvious where the old petrol stations have been. It's the style of the buildings, the concrete plinths on the "forecourt" and such. I'm not going to be looking at these, I could be looking for these things for far longer than I have to spend on the exploratory project. However, I found out about this one in Whitechapel near Longridge so thought I'd go that way when rephotographing those I'd seen the week before. A bonus, but not one of the ones that will form part of the 52 that I will hopefully reach before too long.

Church Lane
Church Lane, Whitechapel, Lancashire


T4 : Five Petrol Stations

Last weekend was a disappointment. The camera I had wanted to use wasn't really suitable, and I couldn't find a couple of the stations that I thought I should be able to. Further research has been done and it's another disappointment. There are currently only eleven petrol filling stations located within the Ribble Valley, and one of those I have a little niggle about - I don't recall ever seeing it, although granted it's not on a road I go down often. There was another that I've located on Google Street View, but can confirm that it's now been flattened and being replaced by housing. Whether it be ten or eleven though, it doesn't really matter as it's not quite up to the magic number of 26. I'll have to open up my area of exploration, and to be fair it shouldn't have to be by much to start getting some additional ones in the net. I'll just keep pushing the boundaries until I reach my total.

So, what is actually available? Within the Ribble Valley itself, it's:
Barrow : 1
Chatburn : 1
Clitheroe : 2
Dunsop Bridge : 1
Gisburn : 1
Langho : 1
Longridge : 2
Mellor Brook : 1
Osbaldeston : 1
Simonstone : 1

I've visited all of these over the last two weekends, except the one in Langho. I'll hit that one tomorrow and also go to some of those I visited with the MF camera. After that... it's back to pushing the boundaries. This is what I have so far with the Canon DSLR though. 

Texaco, Barrow, Lancashire
Texaco, Barrow, Lancashire

Texaco, Gisburn, Lancashire
Texaco, Gisburn, Lancashire

Esso, Osbaldeston, Lancashire
Esso, Osbaldeston, Lancashire

Cooke, Chatburn, Lancashire
Cooke, Chatburn, Lancashire

Shell, Mellor Brook, Lancashire
Shell, Mellor Brook, Lancashire


T4: a first foray into the Ribble Valley - disappointment aplenty

Last weekend I set off with a full tank of fuel, my GPS in fuel station locating mode and a couple of cameras to find some petrol stations. There's a number I know about, the one on the end of my lane, on the A59. Another next to the only McDonalds in the area. Some in Clitheroe. One in Dunlop Bridge. Bound to be at least one in Longridge. And a strong recollection of seeing one just to the north-west of Ribchester, but that one wasn't where I thought it was...

So, a first disappointment, not an auspicious start. I had thought that was an old fashioned style pump too (so probably not in service). Maybe it was somewhere else I passed whilst do another project in the area? I'll keep an eye out for it. I headed off to Longridge and soon found a second problem. I'd planned to shoot the project using medium format cameras; I have two of these and started off with the Pentax - a bit friendlier to use and a pile more pixels to play with. The lens is 55mm, which will equate to probably about 42mm on a 35mm camera and this is wider than the Hasselblad with it's 60mm lens and crop factor from the old digital back. However, the lens is still too long for what I want. You see, in America, there's lots of wide open spaces, and even when the spaces aren't wide and open, the roads are still wider than the little roads we find in our rural towns and villages. Using the Pentax, the Texaco petrol station in Longridge pretty much filled the frame. I prefer a wider lens, and a level of distance between the subject and the viewer. 

Texaco, Longridge, Lancashire

I'd have preferred it something more like this, which was taken with a little cheap and cheerful Fuji (I have intended to take two styles of photograph and see which works for me more):

Texaco, Longridge, Lancashire

So, a wider lens needed and therein lies the third disappointment. £1700! I'll have to resort to eBay and hope something turns up. Having said that, I can always use my Canon - nothing wrong with it at all, but just not what I had intended. Not quite back to the drawing board, but an obstacle to overcome.


T4 : Gasoline Stations in the arts

Ruscha is not alone in choosing the gasoline station as his subject matter. They have featured in the works of a number of artists, whether working in paint of photographs (or, I dare say, other media too). In looking at them as subject matter, I suppose a logical place to start (ignoring Ruscha for the moment - I'll write some more on him in a dedicated post) would be with another Ed - Hopper. Before I looked at Hopper in any detail (not a great deal of detail, just more than a cursory glance), there were two paintings that I was more aware of. One was Nighthawks 1942, the other Gas 1940. This taps into something that screams "AMERICANA" to me.  The white wooden-board walls, the old red petrol pumps, the proximity to nature (here it's woodlands rather than desert plains - maybe the north-east rather than the south west?). It's heavy with iconography, an idea of America that was exported heavily after the war through Hollywood and the American dream. Gas isn't his only petrol pump painting, there's Four Lane Road 1956 too, and probably others...

Edward Hopper: Gas 1942
(located at accessed 17/3/2015)

Drifting back to my own medium and photography, Robert Adams is a photographer I've long appreciated. Working in Colorado and the south-west, there is a similar feel to Ruscha's photographs - lots of space, but also civilisation. His book The New West points to the decline of the "wild west" and the encroachment of man into those natural spaces, a recurring theme for Adams the conservationist. In this collection there are 5 gas stations; Along Interstate 25 (p19), Sheridan Blvd (p69), Federal Blvd (p77), Golden (p93) and Pikes Peak (p105)

Alec Soth crossed America in From Here to There and to be honest there are surprisingly few gas stations included, but they do feature. Cemetery, Fountain City, Wisconsin 2002 is typical of the contemporary approach. A record of what was there, but filled with a sense of melancholy and detachment. I'll likely be talking some more about Soth in a future post on the road trip I plan to write.

Soth 2
Alec Soth - spread from The Open Road (Cemetery, Fountain City, Wisconsin 2002 on right)

Stephen Shore is another, Beverly Boulevard is classic Shore style. Cars, motel interiors and food are what normally come to mind when I think of his work. The road trip and what he eats on his trip. The petrol station is inexorably linked to the road trip, you really can't have one without the other... There are two photographs he took at the corner of Beverly Blvd and La Brea Ave in June 1975 (on different days, for some reason - maybe it just wasn't "so"). From these two we can see Chevron, Texaco, Gulf and Exxon, one on each corner. A reason that the petrol station is such an enduring topic perhaps? Or is it just because of the road trip?

Stephen Shore: Beverly Boulevard and La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles, California, June 21, 1975
(located at accessed 17/3/2015)

It's not just the Americans either, Robert Frank has photographed them in The Americans. And Iñaki BergeraIt has too, he's a Spanish architect and photographer who I've found whilst researching this Ruscha based project (his website is here).  "Foreigners", but still they photograph American gasoline station though.

One of the more contemporary photographers I've seen photographing petrol stations (albeit in passing) is Kyler Zeleny. His Out West is perhaps more of a documentary on small town America than anything purporting to be about the road, but they're still featuring.
There's numerous others too, as you can see if you just Google the subject. True, not everything that comes to light that way is from an "artist" photographer, there's plenty that are just on Tumblr, Flickr and the other social media image sharing sites. But there's plenty to get to grips with going forward. Plenty to contextualise with. And probably most importantly, plenty of proof that this is a viable subject, that interests people and can go the distance for me.


T4 : 25 of 26 Gasoline Stations (parts 4 and 5 of 5)

I had meant to do this as blocks of 5, but I’ve decided to end it all with one big push…

Enco, Tucumcari, New Mexico
Now a bank
Enco, Tucumcari, New Mexico [Feb 2008]

Hudson, Amarillo, Texas
An empty lot

Hudson, Amarillo, Texas [Jan 2013]

Standard, Amarillo, Texas
The inspiration for Ruscha’s
Standard painting is now a mechanic’s workshop.
Standard, Amarillo, Texas [Jan 2013]

Enco, Conway, Texas
Nothing much…

Enco, Conway, Texas [Dec 2012]

Mobil, Shamrock, Texas
A beauty salon

Mobil, Shamrock, Texas [Mar 2008]

Texaco, Vega, Texas
Is this now a house?

Texaco, Vega, Texas [Jan 2013]

Conoco, Sayre, Oklahoma
Another empty site

Conoco, Sayre, Oklahoma [Aug 2013]

Apco, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Another car sales pitch

Apco, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma [Aug 2014]

Knox Less, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
and another…

Knox Less, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma [Oct 2014]

Fina, Groom, Texas
The last one, demolished and replaced with a house.

Fina, Groom, Texas [Feb 2008]

So, that’s it. All located thanks to Road to Ruscha, Martin Möll or just plain detective work on my part. All except Bob’s Service. It’s back to the Internet search with that one. I’ll also send Todd Stewart and Oklahoma University an e-mail too, maybe he will be able to help…


T4 : 25 of 26 Gasoline Stations (part 3 of 5)

Flying A, Kingman, Arizona
Not a lot remains of Flying A... although it has kept to its car related heritage.

Flying A, Kingman, Arizona [May 2009]


Dixie, Lupton, Arizona
There's an Indian tourist spot at Lupton, but the old petrol station is apparently empty and not in good shape. It can't be seen on GSV though. I've found where it should be (the profile of the rock formations the same), but if you go along the old road, I can only assume it's very dusty as this is what is seen...


However, rather than running with this as the available imagery, I moved the few metres back to the newer I40 to get this - nothing to see in terms of the station, but that's part of the fascination with working this way,

Dixie, Lupton, Arizona [Oct 2013]


Rimmy Jim's Chevron, Jimmy Jims's, Arizona
Rimmy Jim's Chevron burnt down back in the late 60s (see
here), whether this has anything to do with the "Mother Road" being replaced I've no idea (my suspicious mind tends to think it might). It was't rebuilt though, what was the point? I think this will be the place.

Rimmy Jim's, Arizona [Oct 2011]

Self-Service, Milan, New Mexico
Now a car park for the Family Dollar store...

Self-Service, Milan, New Mexico [Apr 2009]

Conoco, Albuquerque, New Mexico
From petrol station to restaurant to empty.

Conoco, Albuquerque, New Mexico [May 2014]



T4 : 25 of 26 Gasoline Stations (part 2 of 5)

Mobil, Williams, Arizona
There seems to have been three Mobil stations on Route 66 in Williams over the years. Ian Walker talks of one at the entrance to the town from the west, next to a Chevron that he photographed for his essay 
A kind of “huh?”: the siting of Twenty-six Gasoline Stations (1962). There’s also another that is now a car themed restaurant on the corner of W Railroad Ave and 3rd (you can still see the old building there in amongst the new). The one Ruscha photographed is apparently on the site of what is now the police station though. Nasty burnt out clouds in the GSV here…

Mobil, Williams, Arizona [Sep 2011]

Standard, Williams, Arizona
Möll has shown the location of the second of Williams’ gas stations as being a Mexican restaurant, the Road to Ruscha project the same (have they just used his research?) There are little niggles with this one for me, the buildings in the background have changed as well, although this can’t be seen in my view use to where I’ve selected. Having said that, if one building changes, then why shouldn’t the next? The “closure” of the 66 meant that Williams has changed it’s source of income form the road and the traffic that used to pass through (according to some random “fact” on the Internet, 1m trucks/year would pass though) to tourism, so more restaurants, gift shops and hotels are needed… It does look like another repurposed gas station in its place though.

Standard, Williams, Arizona [Sep 2011]

Texaco, Jackrabbit, Arizona
The Jackrabbit Trading Post is still there and still in use, however the GSV car has not passed by it from the old Route 66 road it’s tied on. It’s only possible to view the back of the building form the I40 that passes behind it. It’s possible to see the old jackrabbit sign though, so it’s clearly the right place. It’s one of the drawbacks (together with the burnt out clouds, less than ideal contrast, compositions, etc.) of working with images being made available by someone else though (i.e. Google).

Texaco, Jackrabbit, Arizona [Oct 2011]

El Paso, Wilmslow, Arizona
Another one that has been taken down and built over, this time it was the building in the background that makes it clear it’s the right place – the satisfaction of seeing this is quite something, makes the forensic search through the street corners (in this instance) of a town quite rewarding. Things like this also mean I’m looking more closely at both the Ruscha image and the GSV, it puts me in mind of the analysis being made by Errol Morris in his 
Believing is Seeing book.

El Paso, Winslow, Arizona [Sep 2011]

Beeline Gas, Holbrook, Arizona
Another that I only located because of the work of the Road to Ruscha group who photographed some of the surroundings, referencing the Sandman Motel just over the road from here.

Beeline, Holbrook, Arizona [Oct 2011]

Di Bello, P, Wilson, C & Zamir, S (eds) (2012) 
The Photo Book: from Talbot to Ruscha and beyond. London. IB Tauris & Co Ltd. 


T3 : Mapping the Territory Pecha Kucha

The Pecha Kucha presentation is here:

Draft v1 of my notes for presentation are as follows (not time trialled, so fully expected to change when I say it):

1: I started this task using mind mapping - a little program I'd never used before called Mind Maple on the Mac. Inexpensive, but it allowed me to start putting my thoughts down in some form of logical order, although I did actually change my mind on this a couple of times. The thing with the software though is you need to know where you want to be going from the outset.

2: Having changed direction a little, the mind map quickly grew as I added more artists, more influences and more subjects into it, even though the categories were quite broad to begin with. I could've continued adding names, but felt I had to stop somewhere. I also knew this wouldn't be the finished piece.

3: It all got very complicated very quickly when I added some of my own categories so it became useful to me personally, even if I left these at a top level.. There's not really enough within the tool to allow me to do this as I wanted. Everything is too chaotic to be neatly arranged. And too neatly arranged to be chaotic...

4: If you take someone like Martin Parr, he's influenced a lot of photographers, and has been influenced by them too. I do find that photographic national identity interesting, so being able to trace from Tony Ray Jones to Parr to Peter Dench... the stylistic patterns can appear, but then that all relates to others again and identity can become diluted.

5: With Japanese photography, there's a very distinctive identity at the surface, but then there's also many others that don't follow that obvious style. And Japanese photography traditions are rooted in European photography anyway, but with a little twist. It's not so easy to pigeon-hole.

6: As well as other artists and influences or interests, I also added a few questions that I sometimes ask myself, questions that I probably won't be able to answer as a result of doing this activity in isolation, but I thought they needed to be there.

7: So how to make sense of it? My first thoughts were to fill the walls of a room with images. Erik Kessels took this to extremes with his 24 hours of Flickr. It's a valid approach in questioning how we make sense of visual stimuli in the 21st century. Or even whether we can make sense of it at all.

8: I kept it somewhat lower key, selecting some images by those artists I'd written down, adding some of my own to the mix, and a couple of others that I felt were relevant to a somewhat vague plan that was growing in my head who didn't appear in the mind map so far.

9: From there I pinned them randomly to a board and started to trace what I saw as logical lines between them, not necessarily who knew or followed who in their world, but how things appeared to me. What they mean to me and how I interpret them.

10: This approach reflects the chaos I feel when trying to unpick the contemporary photography scene, and the art scene in general. Things that might not actually be connected in real life are connected because of associations I make, rightly or wrongly in terms of their intentions.

11: As some of the things from mind map weren't easy to pictorially define, I opted for some text, the use of which within the image I find interesting anyway, so it seemed relevant to do it this way. Again, they were pinned randomly to the board, using the same pins as the photos. Not sure if this was the right way forward.

12: The questions are things I often ask myself. Should I have photographed this empty cereal bowl, or should it have been a full one as seems to be a bit of a trend in social media from time to time? Is something so mundane actually interesting, or is it just like a filler track on an album? I do like the idea of "elevating the mundane" though, as with pop-art, and a lot of other photography, basically...

13: I stood and thought about the images then tried working with long lengths of thread, linking the images in a single line according to an idea I had that created connections for me, this generally didn't work out though to be honest, and I often found myself adding legs later as something else occurred to me.

14: Not everything is linked either, some of the text especially has been overlooked at the moment (the images are linked though). I might add these in time, although it may be a good thing that it be changed so they stand in isolation. It appears they're linked but its not the case.

15: There's so many connections that haven't been made too, but to do this properly would result in something truly chaotic and needing another way of fastening things - the effect is getting close to what I envisaged though and information overload. I also need more colours of thread.

16: The fact that almost everything can be connected is sort of like the movie game the Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon. You will be able to do the same with these artists, although that's not really what i've achieved here. Not in such direct terms. It might be an interesting approach to take with it though.

17: But in a modern visual culture, the links are for the reader to make, and as Foucault said, we interpret everything in terms of everything else, so with enough different colours of cotton and enough time, this could take on all sorts of different meanings.

18: I suppose doing this is a little like looking inside my own head, and the jumble of things that can be there in terms of the visual - over time I will be processing all these things and trying to make them ordered, as they were in the mind map, but the truth is that the more I look at, the more unordered things can be.

19: And the more questions I can find myself asking too, and the more things - images, songs, films, books, whatever - are added to the mix and the more connections can be made or, in some cases, unmade. It can gets complicated even as I try and make sense of it.

20: I suppose the most important question for me is that which sits above a snap of my camera at the approximate centre of the board - what is photography?

T4 : 25 of 26 Gasoline Stations (part 1 of 5)

Ed Ruscha decided to work his project whilst driving the thousands of miles from LA to Oklahoma to see his parents. He also liked the word "gasoline" and the "specific quality of 'twenty-six'" (Richards, p31). The 26 photographs document further iterations of that journey through the gasoline (or Petrol for those of us this side of the Atlantic) stations that were peppered along the route, in some instances in areas devoid of much else. The presence of these stations tell us of the size of America, the fascination with the great American road trip, Route 66 and the culture of the time. Was this the intention with the project though? It certainly confused at the time, and book sellers didn't know how to classify the book. Rust hasn't been the only one to photograph petrol stations, but that can be subject of another posting. What I was meaning to do here is provide the 25 stations I have found during the last couple of weeks of fevered searching.

Bob's Service, Los Angeles. California
This is the one that I've not tracked down yet. Los Angeles is a pretty big place and there aren't many clues in the photograph. Certainly "Bob's Service" doesn't come up with anything, other than links to Ruscha's photograph or things that seem unrelated. The only thing I can assume is that it's somewhere between the Santa Monica seafront and the Texaco on Sunset Strip. However, this isn't an absolute given as some are known to be "out of order", going from LA to Oklahoma.

Texaco, Sunset Strip, California
This Texaco has gone, although the location was found thanks to the presence of the Har-Omar restaurant behind it. Here, the composition is broadly similar to that used by Ruscha, albeit a touch wider.

Texaco, Sunset Strip, Los Angeles [GSV Dec 2014]

Union, Needles, California
Still looking pretty much as it did, although a bit more "tired" perhaps. Just like the majority of those located, it's no longer a petrol station, the need having passed with the decommissioning of Route 66 as the major transport route - this one is in the shadow of the I-40 Needles Freeway which took the traffic over W. Broadway.

Union, Needles, California [Oct 2011]

Shell, Daggett, California
This is one that I'm a little less confident about. There aren't many clues to be taken from the original photograph, and to be honest, the size of the cabin seems a little small although as can be seen in the others, a lot can happen in the intervening years. This is the site that Martin Möll uses in his 
Twenty-six Gasoline Stations Revisited though (I found this work through the images included in Todd Stewart's Context site that I've linked to in the titles here).

Shell, Daggett, California [Jul 2012]

Whitling Bros, near Ludlow, California
This one was problematic. Ludlow has been pretty much levelled when you look at the Google satellite and Street View maps and nothing even comes close. However, this is 
near Ludlow not in Ludlow. The Context site has an image of what it looked like in 2013, so using with the help of Flickr and Google, I've been able to find that station in Newberry Springs but my "problem" is that it's 29 miles from Ludlow. So, is it actually the right one? Evidence would say "yes", my inner voice says "no"; maybe my English idea of "near" is very different to an American idea of the concept.

Whitlow Bros, Ludlow, California [Jul 2012]

Phillips 66, Flagstaff, Arizona
After the uncertainty of the last one, I thought I'd found Phillips 66 because of the distinctive shape, but on closer looks it's just not the same. The scaffold at the front of the roof is a different shape, but the much bigger problem is the shape of the hills behind.

Monte Vista Marine

Instead, it would appear that the dart-shaped roof has been removed and we have a different building. This is as deduced by the Road to Ruscha and Martin Möll sites.

Phillips 66, Flagstaff, Arizona [Sep 2011]

Richards, M (2008) 
Ed Ruscha. London. Tate Publishing (accessed throughout March 2015) (accessed throughout March 2015)


T4 : Road to Ruscha

The Route 66 section of my project is heavily research driven, a more forensic research than might normally be expected because I have to find his 26 gasoline stations locations based on a series of simple captions - Bob's Service, Los Angeles, CA or Texaco, Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA. The only other geographical clue is that they're all on Route 66, so that cuts it down somewhat, although "Los Angeles" is still a pretty major length of road to go checking all the buildings on... I have found a useful resource though, and that's the website of a research based art project called Road to Ruscha by the art, art history, architecture, and geography students and faculty of the University of Oklahoma, who covered the journey back in 2013 (the 50th anniversary of the book). There's also a few blogs around the subject too, such as this one by one of the faculty members.

I got quite excited when I saw a map with all the photographs from the book pinned on it, I thought my research had been shortcut. But no, the map is wildly inaccurate and I can only assume that the locations were marked from a distance. If we take the Texaco on Sunset Strip as an example, they have located it at Hammond Street, a residential area situated roughly 11 miles from the actual location at 8795 Sunset Boulevard, which I found by Googling the Har-Omar Restaurant, a sign for which is in Ruscha's photograph. However, whilst the map is next to useless, there are photographs and short blog entries about their discoveries, dead-ends and u-turns, some of which has already proven invaluable in locating the stations that have been demolished or repurposed. Photographs of street signs are quite useful, even if the locations they're in aren't given there's only 26 to check, so it's certainly helpful.

Road to Ruscha map - Western Section

Road to Ruscha map - Los Angeles

Road to Ruscha map - "Texaco, Sunset Strip" [not]

Even so, the locating of the gasoline stations is still proving problematic. It looks like one of the towns featured in Ruscha's book has been completely demolished when you look on Google's satellite view, although there are still a few buildings left when you look on the earlier GSV, but none of them look like what I was expecting in Ludlow. Maybe that one has gone and can only be approximated? Others have gone, but there are still traces of what was before, the one on Sunset Strip being an example of this as the restaurant still remains and is easily identifiable, but it looks like the gas station is now outside dining. It's similar in other locations too, and I've only confirmed that they're what I believe they're meant to be using the backgrounds.

So far, I've located just over half of the sites, with a couple more that are possibles although I'm not completely certain it's the right place, and maybe I never will be. Having found the locations, I'm pseudo-photographing them; picking a location from GSV and composing what I want the shot to look like. Maybe they'll be similar to Ruscha's photograph, but I don't feel that is necessary (nor even possible in some instances). They'll be something I think suits my purposes. In terms of the aesthetics of the images though, I have done some manipulation. I've straightened things, removed excessive convergence that can occur with GSV, I'm not removing other GSV "features" though. I'm also converting them to a monochrome image, purely as a reference to the source material. I might change these choices before the end, we'll see how things go.

Anyway, here's the Texaco that I've been talking about as it was
before and how it is now(ish).

Texaco location from GSV
(screen captured March 2015)

Texaco, Sunset Strip, Los Angeles, CA [GSV Dec 2014]



An essay title

OK, so the provisional essay title is To photograph is to appropriate the thing photographed. It's a quote from Susan Sontag's On Photography (from page 4) and it seems pretty relevant since I'm planning to be looking at appropriation, and photography. I've been toying with appropriation with the series of "film stills" I was working with in Tasks 1 and 2, something I wanted to take further but now feel that discretion is the better course following a couple of instances that have made the news in recent months (the Top Gun incident, Luc Tuyman's painting and Blurred Lines, amongst others). Of course, the likes of Richard Prince and Jeff Koons will likely get a mention too, although my approach will be more from a photography perspective (both appropriate photographs though), and I plan to bring in elements of visual culture too. I was also considering bringing in something about "Pop" sensibilities and the mundane but to be honest, it's only 2000 words so I think this would be too much.

Principal reference material will be drawn from a book of essays and interviews called
Appropriation edited by David Evans, but there will also be something from Sontag, Barthes and the rest of the "visual culture" crowd where they are necessary:
Evans, D (ed) (2009). 
Appropriation. London. Whitechapel Gallery.
Sontag, S (1977) 
On Photography. London. Penguin Books.

T4 : Exploratory Project

Rather than simply copy out the Project Plan here, I thought I'd simply state the idea, and I suppose the simplest way of doing that is with a title: Fifty-Two Petrol Stations.

There's an obvious starting point here, and that's Ed Ruscha's Twenty-Six Gasoline Stations; photographs of exactly that, taken on Route 66 in the early 60s. What I'm looking to explore is an appropriation of his idea, rather than simply copying and repurposing his images. One of things that I've found interesting over the years is the elevation of the mundane things that we see but ignore into something that acquires relevance - if it's photographed, it means something. Or so it seems.

Knox Less, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
(located at

Doing this will hopefully serve to allow me to scratch a number of itches that I've had for a while. One "itch" stems from Martin Parr's Boring Postcards in that, whilst these are indeed simply postcards you wouldn't necessarily want to receive, they also have some resonance with the cool or deadpan approach of much contemporary photography. Within volume 1 of his book, there's a photograph of The Fast Reactor, Dounreay, Caithness  that reminds me of The Bechers and The Tourist Information Centre, Fort William reminds me of Stephen Shore. Don't get me wrong, they're not the same, not by a long shot (although perhaps it should be noted that Shore printed postcards of some of his photographs and inserted them uninvited into postcard carousels....). But there is something there, for me at least. Maybe it's a reflection of contemporary photographic practice, as much as anything.

The Fast Reactor, Dounreay, Caithness (from Martin Parr's Boring Postcards. Reproduced with permission)

The Tourist Information Office, Fort William (from Martin Parr's Boring Postcards. Reproduced with permission)

Anyway, I wanted to revisit scenes from the book for my degree, rephotographing them to show the passage of time and with the intention that they be serious photographic art, rather than postcards. For one reason or another, I didn't do it. But I feel like I want to still.

The second itch that I've scratched around a few times is that of Google Street View (GSV). Using GSV is not "photography", but I don't see any reason why it can't be used as a tool in the making of art. What I hope to do is something of a forensic search to find what remains of Ruscha's 26 and rephotograph them using GSV. Not necessarily trying to get the same composition (which would be largely impossible anyway), but to get something I like out of it. This might be an impossible task - none of the gas stations were given particularly definitive titles, "Enco, Tucumcari, NM" is one example. Tucumcari isn't a particularly large town (population circa 5500), but still... Anyway, I'm hoping that by digging around for info on the Internet I'll be able to locate these 26 sites on GSV and create an image using my own composition, etc. Doing this will also serve to scratch the first itch. Will it be possible? Will it be interesting and worthwhile? I've no idea.

The second part of the project brings me home. I'm planning to track down 26 petrol stations in the rural (largely farming) community I live in - the Ribble Valley in NW England. I've photographed the Ribble Valley before. It's where I live, so why wouldn't I? It's relevant to me, it makes the project "matter". I'm fairly confident there will be 26, but there is a slight risk here - the Ribble Valley consists of 2 small towns and a number of villages and hamlets, this is no bustling metropolis! In searching out this petrol stations, I'm hoping to create some interesting images of my own. I'm planning on working in two styles, the first being more fluid and casual, the second with a medium format camera, which will likely end up something akin to that included below, which comes from
Into the Valley, a project I did a couple of years ago. Which style will I use...? I guess that depends on how I feel when I have a raft of photographs in front of me.

"Texaco, Barrow, Lancashire"

Anyway, that's the loose plan. We'll see how it ends up.
Parr, M (1999) 
Boring Postcards. London. Phaidon Press Ltd.