Fill up on gas station memories

Gasoline by David Campany

Since its invention, the car has been a photographers' favourite. The sleek lines have often been an inspiration and that mythical promise of freedom has to some extent been created by the photos and cinematic images.

But the car requires fuel, and it is that which forms the basis of a new book consisting of archive press images of petrol stations - or gas stations as they are known in the US, where most of the photos in David Campany's Gasoline originate.

The photographs are drawn from archives of several American newspapers that have been discarding their analogue print collections in favour of digital storage.

Many are marked up with chinagraph pencil, outlining the crop required for a particular story layout in the newspaper. Some depict the fuel crisis of the early 1970s, others show accidents and some appear to be press events for the promotion of a certain model.

In an interview with George Kaplan that appears at the back of the book, Campany describes how the book began.

"I came across the shot of the woman with her head in her arms at the wheel of her car. Her name was Pat Sullivan and she was waiting in line for gas in Baltimore, 1979. I thought it was such a beautiful image. The hair and her car have been retouched, almost as if the newspaper wanted her to look her best even at this low point."

Gasoline by David Campany

Yet the photograph is only part of the story. Flick through to the second half of the book and you will find pictures of the reverse of the prints, offering caption information, the name of the photographer and copyright holder as well as dates of publication and much more.

It is data that brings the images to life and to some extent removes the nostalgic glow the pictures have on their own.

Photographs such as these can have many lives. As a news photograph to illustrate the story of the day, as a social document and possibly even as art for the gallery wall.

But however you see these pictures, as archives shed their hard copy prints it is good to see that somewhere a small selection has been preserved, not in the dark recess of an archive but on the shelves of both photographic and car enthusiasts.

Gasoline by David Campany
Gasoline by David Campany
Gasoline by David Campany
Gasoline by David Campany
Gasoline by David Campany

Gasoline by David Campany is published by Mack.

Phil Coomes, Picture editor Article written by Phil Coomes Phil Coomes Picture editor

The photographs that reunited families

The Polaroid photographs that helped reunite families in Rwanda

Read full article

Features & Analysis

  • French luxury Tea House, Mariage Freres display of tea pots Tea for tu

    France falls back in love with tea - but don't expect a British cuppa


  • Woman in swimming pool Green stuff

    The element that makes a familiar smell when mixed with urine


  • Female model's bottom in leopard skin trousers as she walks up the catwalkBum deal

    Why budget buttock ops can be bad for your health


  • The OfficeIn pictures

    Fifty landmark shows from 50 years of BBC Two


Elsewhere on the BBC

  • ITChild's play

    It's never been easier for small businesses to get their message out to the world

Programmes

  • Tuna and avacadoThe Travel Show Watch

    Is Tokyo set to become the world's gourmet capital?

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.