New Summerfield, Texas.
29 December 020XX.
During my road trip in The American South with Mr Matt Jensen -- pretty good driver, really good designer -- at the end of December 02007, we passed this defunct gas station in tiny New Summerfield, Texas (pop. 998). Which gave me an idea for a photo essay exploring the experience of a World Without Oil (a bit like the alternate reality game blogged here recently).
The five shots above are unretouched, and in that sense as close to documentary (vs photoshopped hypotheticals) as photos get. They're plain little snaps -- I took them on a 6.0MP camera set to capture at 3.0MP -- and in the hands of a better photographer there'd be more artistry to them -- but the point that's interesting to me here is the possibility of present-day photographs evoking future scenarios.
In the context of a discussion about a post-oil America, they take on an air of foreboding; begging the question, in tones perhaps more subtle than most future artifacts seen in this space, "Is this our future?"
As I write it occurs to me that these images (and perhaps future artifacts in general) might be considered visual metonyms. Metonymy is a term from linguistics denoting expressions where a part stands in for the whole. (For example, "Check out my new wheels". Here, the word "wheels" stands in for an electric car, wisely selected by its proud owner in anticipation of an imminent oil crisis.)
However far I may appear to stray from it, my point is that such photos, like other futures artifacts, perhaps, serves as a stand-in -- an icon, a tip-of-the-iceberg -- for a much larger, more far-reaching social scenario.
Also, they highlight the fact that images of possible futures, including of post-peak oil scenarios, need not be technologically "futuristic" in the usual way in order to serve as fuel (pardon the pun) for deepening the conversation.
I sense some promise here, in this less labour-intensive approach to futures imagery, which I'm looking forward to exploring as we go along.
More shots to follow...
[On to part two | part three]