In times of climate change, fuel-guzzling cars quickly go out of fashion. But even as we refocus towards a future of sleek, quiet electric cars, there’s still a place in our hearts for the petrol-powered past and the all-consuming culture that came with it.
And it is this nostagia that architectural photographer Ashok Sinha connects to on a profoundly emotional level in his photo book Gas and Glamour: Roadside Architecture in Los Angeles, which celebrates car culture and architectural advertising in Los Angeles during America’s automotive golden age.
Based in New York, Ashok is an architecture and fine arts photographer known for his large format panoramas that capture a sense of place connected to natural landscapes and built environments. And in Gas and Glamor he uses that ability to explore a time when cars were objects of beauty and the act of driving was celebrated.
Continuing on this lost design history and capturing LA’s auto culture-infused optimism and ambition, Ashok’s epic images capture a series of multicolored, star-studded cafes, gas stations, car washes, and other structures that once drew the eye of the passing motorist.
Designed by Kehrer Design, the hardcover book is 72 pages, contains 59 color illustrations, and features contributions from architect Jack Esterson and curator Sherri Littlefield.
“I’ll never forget driving my dad’s turquoise 1964 Ford Mustang,” recalls Jack Esterson. “It was the model’s first year and we made a splash everywhere we went. Especially when we pulled into our local hamburger joint, a glowing box of pink and green Lucite, and got the 40 cent combo meal. Fond memories of a time of innocence that never really existed, so stirred up by Ashok Sinha’s transcendent and alluring photography of Los Angeles’ fast-fading hotspots.
“Conjured up during the Eisenhower and Kennedy years and filtered through the seduction of space-age optimism,” he continues, “this wonderful roadside architecture reflected a belief in the future. And now, through Sinha’s loving work, we look back to an envisioned future — of jet travel, unlimited expansion, and most importantly, mobility for all.”
In this light, Jack describes Gas and Glamor as “a document to be treasured – not as nostalgia, no – but as an archival reminder of how we saw ourselves in the American Empire after its subjects left – swiftly, in a.” orbit future without end, and then we remember”.
Curator Sherri Littlefield adds, “There is a timeless beauty to be found in the City of Angels. Los Angeles retains traces of a time when the American dream flourished. Homemade meals, job security, a strong middle class, and vacations were The speed of travel brought with it a new breed of roadside architecture that made it imperative to quickly identify a pop image or brand.
“As Americans increasingly began to see the world through the windshields of their cars, buildings needed to be recognizable to passing drivers, and architects began to push the boundaries,” she continues. “There was a new optimism in the design of car washes and gas stations, futuristic glass facades of cafes like Normsand Pann’s, a sense of togetherness at Bowlium and Van de Kamp’s Holland Dutch Bakery, and an injection of humor in the architecture of The Donut Hole and Fleetwood Center. “