In the U.S. and elsewhere, the way to get public officials’ attention to municipal woes such as potholes, broken streetlamps and playgrounds in disrepair is quite modern: phone apps such as SeeClickFix (nationwide),Street Bump (Boston), San Diego 311send the complaint directly to the government agency in charge. Almost everywhere as well, the standard 3-1-1 phoneline is in operation, albeit without the benefit of GPS or smartphone camera shots.
But in Yekaterinburg, Russia one of the oldest means of communication was put into play in 2012 when an ad agency was hired to take a different tack to highlight some infrastructure problems. With a few skilled strokes of an artist’s paintbrush, the complaints about poor street quality were made eminently photo-worthy. Deep potholes were turned into gaping mouths of the local city manager, the mayor and the provincial governor, whose faces framed the broken pavement.
The implication was obvious – all talk but no fixed pavement – and it worked. Within 24 hours, the mayor’s office issued a statement saying the “unsanctioned and inappropriate pictures that were polluting the city” had to be removed. Wisely, those host potholes were repaired by the city in the process.
The ad agency didn’t limit the view of these caricatures to mere passersby. Posted on the blog URA.RU, which sponsored the campaign, as well as social media sites including Twitter, Vkontakte and LiveJournal, were photos that can still be accessed. While art and potholes can be erased rather quickly on terra firma when found to be a politically challenging, bothmight live long in cyberspace.
In 2013, New York artist Davide Luciano turned his own frustrations into a comical series of staged photos centered on potholes. The potholes in his photo series include a beach lifeguard responding to a hand rising out of an apparently-deep pothole, another features a diner consuming spaghetti and meatballs from a pothole, while others depict a woman doing laundry, a man crushing grapes with his feet, champagne on ice, a gardener planting flowers and a fisherman hooking a big catch – all from deep chuckholes in New York City.