Images courtesy of Ed Ruscha.
In the 1960’s, Ruscha photographed along Route 66 between Los Angeles and Oklahoma City, and produced a body of work about Twenty Six Gasoline Stations. His motive was to approach these subjects with no clear agenda, but to respond instinctively instead. He said that he “just wanted to explore the subject dead-head, straight-on, without much emotion. A lack of emotion is a little like no style in a way.” He was well travelled along this route, as he was used to driving to visit family.
Interestingly, the book was rejected by the Library of Congress due to its lack of information and its unorthodox form. However, the book received a cult following and resulted in three editions being published.
Although at the time the subject matter and presentation may have seemed unorthodox, the way he executed the project was key. The idea was simple, and thus the presentation of images mimicked this. The viewer is allowed to ponder over each unique place, each gasoline station. Black and white means no distractions. Our attention is solely on the station, the daily activities that occur there. He chose to include a title, normally on the opposite pages of where each photograph was taken.
The simplistic nature of this project has a great deal of value when looking at the photo book. Ruscha was commenting on the ordinary, and finding interest in the banal. The documentation of such everyday scenes and elevating them in their importance, namely through a photo book, is a way of the artist communicating their message to the world. It is to no surprise that this book is often considered the first modern artist’s book.