Rustha's Gasoline Stations (virtually) Revisited :
The idea of the American road trip has lived long at the back of my mind, fuelled, as it were, by the multitude of other photographers that have done the same beforehand, and the numerous films exported by Hollywood to the rest of the world.

Robert Frank produced what is perhaps the most celebrated photobook on American society as experienced and recorded through a series of road trips, but it is Ed Ruscha’s odd little collection of “twentysix gasoline stations” from Route 66 that he made in the early 1960s that interests me more. Perhaps it is his typological approach, the informal compositions or maybe simply the fact that it is short and to the point - there are indeed just 26 photographs and all of them are of gasoline stations. Whatever the attraction to me, and to numerous others who have worked this trope since Ruscha published his book, this is my take on things, some 50-odd years later.

Unlike many of those others though, I have produced this work from the comfort of my own home in the UK, eschewing (for the time being at least) the expense of travelling to the American West by appropriating the images from Google Street View. In doing so, I’ve had to draw on visual clues from Ruscha’s images, my own investigations and the research and help of Jeff Brouws, Martin Möll and The Road to Ruscha project to locate what I believe to be the sites of those 26 gasoline stations.

Those appropriated images have subsequently been soaked in diesel in order to metaphorically represent the disappearance of Route 66 and the gasoline stations that followed its course (only one of which, Jackrabbit’s Trading Post, is understood to still be operational). The resultant transient effect of the diesel on the prints also represents what is perhaps a disappearing opportunity to experience the muse of the open road and its place in American culture and history.

Original Google Street View imagery, © Google

Rob™, 2015

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