The 70-Mile stretch of dusty highway connecting Kirkuk to Sulaymaniyah in Northern Iraq looks like any other road in the world—except for the 70-plus gas stations lining the shoulder. Some look more like a temple. Or have gold-plated pillars. Or brandish a snappy set of Kurdish flags.
In a country with 140 billion barrels of crude oil reserve, pretty much anyone can start a gas station. Some families own a bunch. The economics of the business push prices as low as $1.60 per gallon. And everyone along Sulaimani-Kirkuk Road is selling pretty much the same stuff. So the filling stations have had to find some way to set themselves apart. The answer will be familiar to anyone who studies deer antlers or peacock plumage: It’s all about the ornaments.
Photographer Eugenio Grosso visited the road last September, and the visual experience sent him grabbing for his camera. “A petrol station on its own is quite boring,” he says. “But these stations are all different, and different from what we expect.” Grosso hired a taxi driver and spent a day snapping photos of air pumps next to murals of fiery arrows. […]