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 Article written by Phil Coomes Phil Coomes Picture editor

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