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  • Writer's pictureJo Sutherst

Surfaces and Strategies – Twentysix Bus Stops

We were tasked with producing a series of images as a small book inspired by one of Ed Ruscha’s books.  We were given complete freedom to respond to this task in any way we wish as long as it was in response to at least one of Ruscha’s books.

I have been considering the display of my work as part of this course. I posted in my CRJ about placing images in bus shelters. (CRJ post – Informing Contexts – Billboards and Bus Shelters).  I thought this would be a fun way to explore how bus stops vary around the country.

I decided to try a different approach for me.  I put a request out on Facebook, posting it in several groups, for images of bus stops to be emailed to me.  I did not specify anything more than that.  The intent was not to use any of my own images.

Each image is placed in the book with the name of the photographer who took it.

Along the way certain things surprised me.

Firstly, I joined a group on Facebook – The Wonderful World of Bus Shelters. The group claims to be a group made up entirely of photography enthusiast who enjoy photographing and sharing bus shelter images.  I then posted my request, expecting the enthusiasts to want the be involved.  Oh, how wrong was I?


The response was surprising. The members started getting upset and offended, and I found myself having to justify and re-explain my project.  I was accused of trying to steal their images, even though I made it clear that I would not use any images that had not been sent to me with permission via email.  Some of the comments are shown below.

The final comment before I left the group was that the members did not understand why I “couldn’t just take my own photographs”.  This was despite fully explaining the philosophy behind the project.

Luckily, I had a great response from other people, with images coming in from places all over the UK and Europe.

My role has been curating and editing the resultant book.  I reduced the number of images to 26 in keeping with Ruscha’s TwentySix Gasoline Stations.  I then cropped each image to 8×10 format and converted to black and white for a consistent approach.  Each image was then auto tone corrected.  This has enabled the images to appear bland and low-contrast.  Normally I would add interest during the editing process, increasing the contrast etc.  I wanted to ensure my work remained quite true to the blandness of Ruscha’s aesthetic.

I was pleasantly surprised too see the mixture of bus stops that were photographed.  Some were modern and others run down older variants.  

Materials varied with each image too.

The font used for the front of the book (Rockwell Extra Bold) was chosen to as closely resemble Ruscha’s choice.  I did not want to use the same font colour for a couple of reasons.  Firstly I was concerned that if the colour was slightly off it would look odd and secondly, I do like to be a little different.  This is one area that I could have artistic say over.

This project has taught me about the value of crowdsourcing images for projects. It was actually quite fun waiting to see what was going to be sent in.  However, I will be mindful in the future to ensure any such projects are clearly defined at the request stage, along with details about how the images will be used.

It was strange experience for me, yet incredibly liberating not to be the one taking the photographs.  Normally, I like to be controlled with my submissions of work, so this was unnatural to me.  But I decided I needed to leave my comfort zone, pop on my brave pants and do something different.  And here we are.  Overall, I am pleased with how it came out. 🙂

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