Gas and Glamour: Roadside Architecture in Los Angeles
by Jack Esterson, Craig Kellogg, Sherri Littlefield, and Ashok Sinha ; photography by Ashok Sinha
Ashok Sinha; texts by Jack Esterson, Craig Kellogg, Sherri Littlefield, and Ashok Sinha
know how you can listen to song that you’ve known the words to for decades and then
suddenly hear it in another way? That’s the effect of paging through Sinha’s
photos of familiar Southern California roadside sites. An architectural and
fine art photographer, Sinha wanted “to capture L.A.’s car-culture-induced
optimism and ambition reflected in polychromatic, star-spangled coffee shops,
gas stations, car washes, and other places that once lured the gaze of passing
motorists.” Taken mostly at the photographic “magic hour” when the sky is at
its most luminous and the neon starts to pulse, images of Randy’s Donuts (Henry
J. Goodwin, 1953), Bowlium (Gordon Powers, 1958), Bob’s Big Boy (Wayne
McAllister, 1949), Casa de Cadillac (Randall Duell and Philip A. Conklin, 1949),
and Union 76 (Gin Wong, FAIA, 1965) glow in romantic nostalgia. Few people
appear in the images, casting an additional eerie stillness, similar to the
loneliness that drips from an Edward Hopper painting. For the intrepid reader
wanting to embark on a self-driven tour, the book ends with an illustrated
index—with many views whimsically taken from Sinha’s driver’s seat—along with
addresses and QR codes for Google Map directions. As a self-proclaimed
early-morning diner hound, I’ve spent countless hours and omelettes at Armet
& Davis’ Norms (1957) and Mel’s (1953), but never saw them this way before.
Take a look for yourself.
2020, 72 pages, hardcover, $45.