M1 is a series of photographs of discarded plastic bottles of urine found along the M1 motorway. Beautifully photographed and printed, the series perfectly sums up our modern throw-away culture’s relationship to waste (both human and consumables) and the time-starved reality so many of us are living and working in – where there is just no time for a rest (stop).
Ricky Adam’s M1 also playfully acknowledges photography’s functions as a means to explore, to collect and to catalogue, all with a dose of wry punk humour.
Photography has long used the open road as a way of investigating people, culture and landscape. The road trip is a theme of photography that spans cultures and ages, and reappears continuously through different lenses.
The M1 motorway, a main vein of England running from Leeds to London (and back again) frames this very British road trip book. Ricky cites Paul Graham’s iconic A1 (1983) as an influence, as well as Robert Frank’s (1955) The Americans and Justine Kurland’s ongoing work about the nomadic fringe of America. This deeply-rooted connection between photographers and the road is built on a notion of freedom in relationship to landscape, the photographer as a fixed present amongst the constant movement. The movement here encompasses the internal as well as the external, the jettisoned ideas in our ‘can’t stop, won’t stop’ pace of life. Here the main vein is twofold.
Ricky Adam spent many years travelling through Europe and America, staring at the roads from a tour van as drummer in the punk band The Kabinboy, and later as photographer for BMX Magazine. Like so many photographers, he was a kid collector – football stickers, erasers, Star Wars figures. “I walked around looking at the ground, finding things on the road, picking stuff up.” When he picked up a camera he discovered the perfect tool for looking and collecting.
Cataloguing makes order from such collecting. Photography has always been hand in hand with (pseudo)scientific classifications, from August Sander’s early 20th century collective portrait of German societies to Bernd and Hilla Becher’s photographs of industrial buildings and structures and, (of course) Ed Ruscha’s Gas Stations.
Typologies sit firmly in photography’s sights. The bottles in M1, studio-lit and objectified against bright white formal backgrounds, are at the same time subjective, personal and intimate. Bottled waste, dirty and discarded, slyly presented as clean and orderly typology.
The collection is funny, too. Adam’s toilet humour is in showing the world our bad habits, re-proposing photography’s role as tale-teller, as investigator.
M1 is a comment on photographic seeing, the shared language of photography and the photobook itself. It is also a metaphor, with a British self-deprecating humour, for our 21st century pace, our plastic wastefulness and our human byproduct – nature discarded and, until now, disregarded.
– reviewed for Photomonitor by Casey Orr
Below: images from M1 © Ricky Adam: