This unusual black and white work is of a United Laboratories plate. Now, normally you can find this metal plate seal on all sorts of electronics, mechanical machinery, and computer products. But what makes this one special is that its attached to a late 1920’s visible gas pump.
The visible gas pump, invented in 1925, served the purpose of showing the customer clarity of the gasoline pumped into their car. Dirty gasoline was a problem, and if a customer had to pay 17-25 cents a gallon for their gas, they wanted the best. The hand pumped gas flowed into a clear cylinder at the top of the machine. The attendant measured, and then deposited into the gas tank of the car.
After a little research, I believe that this pump once was serving Shell brand gasoline. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing this for sure. It seems that Shell, Blue Sunoco, and Conoco gasoline companies used yellow stations and logos. However, I have only been able to find references to Conoco and Shell stations in New Mexico during the 1920’s. Further, I have located pictures on Google of yellow colored tanks bearing the shell logo during this time period. But, I’ve not been able to find Conoco brand tanks or stations that weren’t green or red and white.
I even tried looking up the UL no. on the label but it seems that it is so old that UL does not have it archived on their internet database. So, unless this is a local brand from some long forgotten company, I’m fairly certain it was a Shell station pump.
Artistically speaking, I love the way the patina of rust and corrosion really highlight and bring forth the dimensions of the sign. As for the choice of color, it became obvious that a Black and white photograph showed much more dramatic variations in the paint and rust all the while highlighting the sign. When the picture was in color, the bright colors retracted from the piece and were unsightly.
In any case, this work is a result of history and art working together in harmony while showcasing the wondrous beauty of Black and White Photography.
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