Sunday, October 14, 2007


Curious Transport Series

I’ve been in love with cars since I was a small child. I inherited my interest and appreciation of automotive beauty from my Dad. When I would drive around with him as a kid, he would always point out any vintage cars and tell me the make, model and specific year of production. At 86, he still does that today. My Dad has always been a “Buick Man” and because of that I’ve always noticed Buick’s on the road probably more than other cars. The image “Glossy #3” is a customized Buick Super Sport I spotted at a vintage GM car show in Van Nuys, CA. I grew up driving around in the family’s 1966 Buick LeSabre Convertible – a car my Dad still lovingly maintains in almost all original condition to this day. I always collected Matchbox, Hot Wheels, and on special occasions received more expensive and collectible Corgi cars as gifts. I still have every miniature car I collected throughout my life.

Six of my photos in the Photography Now show come from an ongoing series called Curious Transport. The series began as I focused on cars that have been uniquely customized. I’ve photographed vehicles that look like shoes, bottles of soda, wieners, and houses, and even ones covered in strange surfaces (like pennies and sod). Now the series has splintered off as I have begun to see the beauty in “beater” cars that are seriously distressed and have seen better days. These images are more abstract and painterly visions of peeling paint, geometric pinstripes patterns, mismatched color body panels, rust, dents, grills and headlamps. I see beauty in these beaters and I really admire people who drive them with pride, which I’m sure isn’t easy to do in a city so wrapped up in car culture. In L.A. a car isn’t just a mode of transportation, it’s a representation of a person and their station in life. In L.A. image is everything and a car is a huge part of that image. I love seeing a distressed beater parked in front of a nice building or sandwiched between two luxury cars. As a person I like standing out and moving to the beat of my own drum in terms of personal style, point of view, and interests. While I like to drive around in comfort and style (albeit in the form of a well taken care of used 1995 Audi A6), I appreciate the iconoclastic spirit of a beater car standing out against everything that is about blending in. Distressed is beautiful.

Part of the Curious Transport series focuses on pinstripes found primarily on 1970’s and 80’s Jeeps, trucks, RVs, and those conversion vans known affectionately as “Love Vans.” While you don’t see a lot of 70’s and 80’s cars on the road you do see a lot of Jeeps, trucks, RV’s and Vans because they are utilitarian vehicles that have a longer shelf life than a typical car. Plus in L.A., people actually live in those vans and RVs. While I also like shooting these relics so that you can see the whole car, lately my interest has gone more “micro” towards focusing on colors and patterns of unique pinstripes that leap across body panels from engine to trunk (or flatbed) on these types of vehicles. I’m attracted to the vintage color palette of earth tone colors that you find in these 70’s and early 80’s cars – really the eras for this type of festooning.

Ironically, one of the worst memories I have in my life was pinstriping by hand my used white 1982 Audi 5000S with black pinstripes. It was 1989, my parents and I decided to pinstripe the car ourselves instead of paying much more to have it professionally done. We stood in the driveway and attempted to put the pinstripes – a black decal pulled from a long paper roll - on straight. I remember lots of yelling, sweat, and probably a few tears. Funny how 18 years later I love to find a pinstriped car out on the street and photograph it. But personally, I never want pinstripes on my own car ever again. Now flames, that’s another thing entirely.

Sign Language Series

I’m a native Los Angeleno who has a unique perspective on this city because I grew up in both “The Valley” in Encino and “Over The Hill” in West Hollywood. I consider it my photographic and civic duty to capture quintessential L.A. – both places that are thriving and much that is rapidly disappearing. Many of these images comprise my Sign Language series.

Architecture in L.A. is very transitory – here today gone tomorrow. Aside from a few protected buildings, it seems like pretty much anything in L.A. is fair game for reinvention. Prototypical “Ranch Houses,” once the sign of having achieved success in the Post-War boom of the 1950’s, are being bulldozed at an alarming rate to make way for “McMansions” that barely leave a strip of land or grass to call one's own.

But while the suburban sprawl is mutating, wherever you go in L.A. you can still find liquor store signs and facades that haven’t changed a bit since they were put up in the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. Whether found in the Valley or the city, these liquor stores have unifying features - many with neon arrows pointing you towards their front doors, positively commanding you to buy spirits and sundries. In a city where nothing is very old, liquor stores are one of the few relics of our past.

Whenever I find out a longtime business is permanently closing down, I'm racing to get a photo of the facade or signage before it's obliterated. The image “Processed By Kodak” is an example of signage that is gone forever – recently torn down after the closure of one of the Valley’s longest running businesses, Studio City Camera Exchange. It also happens to be one of the last Mom and Pop camera stores in L.A. – truly a dying breed. Even the selling point of the sign, “Processed By Kodak,” is a dinosaur in the new digital age.

Yes I'm more than a little nostalgic about my L.A. past and if all I can do is take a photo of a place that has held memories for me (even if that memory is just driving by), then I'm doing my best to get out an take a picture before the construction crews show up.

No comments: