Design Knowledge Intermediary
From the “Tractor Boys” series, 2010–2012.Credit Martin Bogren/VU’, Paris
Philadelphia, 1962.Credit Estate Ray K. Metzker/Les Douches la Galerie, Paris/Laurence Miller Gallery, New York
Credit Andrew Bush/Courtesy M+B Gallery, Los Angeles
Start Your Engines: Photography's Romance with the Car
Society’s love affair with the automobile endures, but it’s hard to come away from the images on display at a new exhibition about photography and the car without wondering: Can the passion survive?
Sprawling development, vast tire dumps, battered vehicles — the exhibition at the Cartier Foundation in Paris traces cars’ impact on the world through hundreds of photographs dating to the early 20th century.
“The industrial production of these two objects,” say the curators, “accelerated their distribution and contributed to the emergence of a combined practice: The camera became the indispensable accessory for drivers eager to immortalize their travels.”
One of the curators, Philippe Séclier, takes that idea a step further. Mr. Séclier, who is 58 and grew up outside Paris, recalls with pleasure the long car trips he took with his family. Later, he spent years driving around the United States taking photographs.
Those trips changed his perspective on cars.
“I think that a car is a camera box on wheels, with a frame in the windscreen,” he says.
The exhibition’s intent is not to glamorize or be sentimental. The photos show the beauty of many cars and the beauty that the new mobility they provided allowed photographers to capture. But the show also shows the blighted landscapes that car culture has helped to create.