Week 45 - 2015

Star Photographer

Ralph Bartholomew, Advertisement for Texaco, 1957. Preus museum's collection.

Star Photographer

Bartholomew (1907-1985) was among those who understood the power of the photograph  and how images could be used to sell products. He wasn't interested in stylized still-lives but changed the focus from the products to the people who used them. In this advertizement for Texaco a uniformed gas-station attendant carries out a routine check of a 1957 Dodge Coronet with the visibly satisfied driver sitting comfortably behind the wheel.  


The photograph was made with strobe flash, a technology developed in the 1930s by MIT professor Harold Edgerton combining rapid exposures with sharp light to freeze movement. In the picture of the Texaco man the photographer used the technology to capture many exposures on a single piece of film.


The service-station attendant is impeccably attired in a clean uniform and well-shined shoes and is clearly attuned to the automobile's details and needs. As such he becomes an image of security and peace, something that can appeal to car owners.  As a Texaco jingle from the 1960s so wittily put it: You can trust your car to the man who wears the star.