As we reflect on the past century, any discussion of technology that has impacted America would certainly include the automobile. For better and for worse, the automobile has altered the economy, geography and the life of this country. It has become a transparent part of the lives of millions of individuals as a practical necessity for living in the world. At the same time, the automobile occupies a place in many person’s lives that goes far beyond being a mode of transportation. While photographing car collector and enthusiast events, I saw in the participants a remarkable passion and identification with the automobile and from this my interest and subsequent work developed.
As cars became available to the masses with the growth of the automobile industry they rapidly developed into signifiers of affluence, modernity and innovation. Initially, these kinds of associations were propagated by the auto industry itself, but very quickly this new transforming technology became a part of our collective identity. Strategically, over many decades, automobile manufacturers have continued to play upon this relationship, creating new and different kinds of identification. Individually, we have taken this and made it our own as manifested in the various car cultures which have spawned: hot rodders, low riders, classic collectors, high-end tuners, etc.
As a photographer, cars and car related events are without question great material for photographic imagery. They are by design spectacles; heightened arenas for the displays of form, power, speed and showmanship. My interest goes beyond the purely visual aspects of the car. I am interested in examining the manifestation of our relationship to the car as expressed in these environments. The places I have chosen are those in which are cars are selected for specific qualities. In these settings we can find sources of nostalgia, fantasies of power and sexuality. A drag racing event is the ultimate manifestation of power: a rod and custom show, extravagant beauty and craft; at a concours one finds expressions of great wealth and culture.
At car events the line between spectator and participant is often blurred, allowing a mutually gratifying exchange of admiration and participation. For many owners and observers, the car is an extension of their identity and this appears to cross the boundaries of class, ethnicity, gender and age. Not surprisingly, in the process of photographing this dynamic I have found myself involved as well. I am one who revels in the presence of a particular car to the same or greater degree as the individuals I have photographed. This mirror if you will, was the seed of my interest. and through this project, I have discovered a yet another wonderful and complex world.