Gas stations are the heart and soul of the 234 Stations, a photo project that was started by Valérie Timmermans and @gangswithaview. It's a photo story that continues to grow as the duo aims to capture all the neon-lit petrol oases around the area of Luxembourg before they are all but gone. Rising energy costs and efforts to clean up the world with the use of more renewable energy sources might mean the end of gas stations altogether. In this interview, Val and Gangs talk about their project and how the Lomo'Instant Wide became the right tool for the job.
Hi, Valerie and Gangs. Welcome to the Magazine! Please tell us about your 234 Project.
Sadly, gas stations are objects that are doomed to slowly disappear in the forthcoming decade. Because of electric cars and new technologies — this typology of architecture along our roads, part of our trips, and holidays — is hardly present in our collective subconscious. We decided with this project, some kind of “post-photography”, to keep a trace of them at a large scale and we mean large — at the scale of a whole country. We were scouting all gas stations in the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg, mapping them, and accurately photographing them as a global archive to preserve the precise moment.
What's the story behind it?
We love to drive a car together and travel through the night for our nightly shoots. Drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes on a parking lot, laughing, discovering and chasing new places and jewels to freeze on film; that’s what’s driving us. We love hanging around at gas stations, feeling their atmosphere, observing those people in transit or just have a coffee break.
Gas stations are comparable to islands with their own behavior but at the same time, they are also universal because all of us already felt their mood at least once. Our pictures of all those stations in Luxembourg shot through the lens of a Lomo'Instant Wide is, for us, a step to commune with this special atmosphere and the people you can find along the way.
Why shoot at night?
Simply because of the atmosphere and things being different.
Gangs: I see gas stations as an island, an oasis for asphalt’s bedouins. I love leaving a large part of black around my pictures, with the determination to isolate the architecture more, aiming for a far viewpoint, a distant view of this oasis. The light conditions also procure a different perception of the architecture, straight to the point, limiting to lines, edges, light sources, and reflections.
Val is more into capturing the atmosphere of the internal point of view — the fog, the proprietary view from inside, with cars, people, and behavior. She’s the insider, I’m the outsider. Each station shot can be seen that way... I shoot the island from a distant boat, and she’s on the Island.
Val: Everything is different at night — our perception of things, the people we meet, the condition to take the photos... We are mostly alone along the roads and there is a great feeling of freedom and excitement. This multiplies the difficulty tenfold and the challenge of taking THE photo. I like to imagine what people who are at stations when they're at their homes and I make up stories about it in my mind.
Gangs are more tied to the ground while having a sharper vision of things, observing from farther away, channeling his vision to choose the right angle, waiting for the right moment. Gangs helps me channel my enthusiasm to take another perspective of things. It's very enriching.
We love the fact that you used the Lomo'Instant Wide. Why choose an instant camera to use for this project?
For the thrill. Trying to achieve the best possible picture at the first shot. Spend time to think about the best way to prepare the shot, the timing, etc, with this little excitation of the instant result. The Lomo'Instant Wide is by far the best instant camera to shoot with at night. The “bulb” mode is just awesome. We have to estimate the exposure length, in order to capture the atmosphere, allowing the best possible pic. I love the excitement of finding the right exposure setting. It’s in your hand, pressing the shutter button and doing an estimate when to release it, sometimes a question of a fraction of a second. You are connected to yourself and the surrounding night, this beautiful endeavor to take the best picture. It is magical! While observing the picture curing, you know if you did well... And by the way, this is far better than yoga!
How was your experience with the Lomo'Instant Wide?
How did it compliment the project?
All we can say is “Don’t change anything. You are perfect honey.”
Your choice of using monochrome and color instant film is quite interesting. Could you tell us more about it?
As written above, it's a different approach to trying to capture reality. Each subject has its own reality sphere and we have the tools to show it.
Gangs: I love being melancholic! A monochrome isolated picture with a trace of disparity and absence shows the way I see things. Val is more about speed, being connected to life, always on the run, connected to people. The color films are able to represent her personal vision of the neons and the people surrounded by fog. Capture the moment, being as close as possible to reality and with all the detail.
Are there plans for a new project? Please invite our readers.
We plan to work on another typology / post-photography project. We also want to show architectural objects in a folkloric context and to prove the social importance of those places; this at the scale of a country. We both want to leave it up to you to discover this project in due time but know these are places that keep us all together, something about a “greasy” passion most of us are addicted to. We need to immortalize all those unsuspected places on film with our Lomography cameras. Those discreet places that are certainly a part of our lives.
Please, just be patient. There are 154 gas stations to go to.
We would like to thank Valerie and Gangs for letting us feature their work in the Magazine.