Paul Batt: Service Station Portraits

“This series is part of an ongoing project documenting the self-reflective moments on the faces of individuals, at the service station below my apartment. The transitory nature of a service station means that patrons don’t arrive there as such. The customer’s intention is their immanent departure and the purpose of their arrival. This nature of not being an intended destination or in a sense a ‘non place’, gives a melancholy to people’s habitation of it as their minds are elsewhere. Using a long (professional sports) tele-photo lens I tried to capture these moments,

Having lived above and beside this service station for a number of years, I have seen every possible type of person down there at some stage, from the homeless to celebrities and all kinds of people and behaviour in between. My kitchen window overlooks this scene and is like another television or a stage waiting for actors. The basic ‘set’ of this stage stays the same but the actors are always different. And having this focal room in the house that has a changing view of minor human dramas, is for a photographer, a complete fascination.

The work had their genesis in the observation of the constant parade of people stopping at this ‘refuelling point’, an enabler of travel. I began to notice that the people who stop there would drop their guard and public persona, for a brief instant enabling the documentation of something more than just people filling up their cars with petrol. Perhaps this disarming of their public front derives from the thought of not being on public view, as well as the mundaneness of the task, like waiting at a tram stop or being in a queue. But it was these brief moments of people alone without their public facade, which spoke to me of the human condition and the existential angst that is ever-present below the smile on a person face. And it was these looks that made me wonder whether it was possible to capture them and whether I would be able to make a portrait of somebody I don’t know which subtly reflected them.”


Paul Batt
is a graduate of both the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) and Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) photography departmentsand is currently a PhD candidate in Fine Art (Photography) at Monash University, where he has also worked as a Sessional Photography Lecturer.