American Hydrant

American Hydrant
Sean Crane
October 2004
Color photos
Pop Culture
8 x 8
Trade Paper

American Hydrant uses conceptual portraits of fire hydrants to document the urban and rural American landscape. This humorous, clever collection of images includes at least one photograph from each of the 50 states. Although the hydrants are interesting in and of themselves-given their regional differences in shape, size, and color-each photo also creatively mirrors the individual character of the city or town in which it was taken.

For instance, in Detroit, the "Motor City," the hydrant is reflected off of the hubcap of a Buick. In Seattle, a town known for its affinity for coffee, the hydrant is shot through the front window of a coffee shop. In Dallas, the image of the hydrant sitting amidst grassy knolls is a powerful reminder of the tragic events of 1963.American Hydrant is the ultimate gift book-fun, creative, aesthetically appealing . . . an eclectic mix of photographs providing an entertaining, curbside view of America.

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When I first set out on my ten-month photographic journey of America, I was in search of wildlife and nature, and the people that make up this great land or ours. Who knew I’d develop such a fondness for fire hydrants?

The first time I really became aware of fire hydrants was about a month into the trip on a swing through the Deep South. It was somewhere along the Georgia coast that I noticed the unusually bright, red and orange paint of a hydrant, catching a glint of late afternoon light. A few towns later I saw another brightly painted hydrant, this time yellow and blue.

I had never really thought about it before, but I soon came to realize that each town had its own unique color scheme. I grew up in a yellow town and just assumed it was the proper color for all hydrants. Sure, they’re all around us, but perhaps it’s their sheer ubiquity that allows hydrants to slip under our daily radar.

Struck by their graphic appearance, I decided to start photographing a hydrant in each town I visited. The idea was to eventually assemble a giant poster with the photographs-a repetitive pattern of color that would look great on the empty wall in my apartment. Thus the project was born. In between shots of mule deer and wizened old gas station attendants, I began to reserve just enough time to stop and shoot a hydrant or two.

After a couple of weeks, the project began to evolve and required more than just the quick stop. While in St. Louis I stumbled upon a hydrant near the city’s trademark arch. Why not photograph the hydrants in an environment that gave them a sense of place? This idea, in turn, evolved into not only giving the hydrants a sense of place, but also doing so in a conceptual way-Seattle through the front window of a coffee shop, Detroit reflected off the hubcap of a Buick.

Eventually, I was no longer shooting portraits of hydrants, per se, but creative representations of the places they lived. The hydrant was the perfect device to document America. After all, you could find one on virtually every street corner in the country, if you cared to look.