A little bit of it is the rallies, car clubs, shows, auctions and Petersen Automotive Museum. A little bit. But that’s not what makes Los Angeles such a car town. Cars are cool. Or they were cool. Back when cool was cool. Like in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. Cars like the Ford Galaxie, which superseded the Ford Fairlaine (first two shots above) and paralleled our fascination with space travel. You don’t see those cultural connections anymore. Nothing is cool anymore. Cool isn’t even cool anymore. If you think something is cool, keep it to yourself buddy. Nobody is interested. Or we already knew about it months ago. Or we pretend we did and that’s as good as having done it. But mostly we just shave the corners off of everything and it all looks the same. Opinion-less, so nobody can make fun of us.
Classic cars, though. You can’t pretend to own one of these things. You do, or you don’t. Opinion, front and center. And it doesn’t have to be in numbers-matching, original paint condition, either. It’s just the car you love because look at those lines. Look at those opinions. The muscle around the wheel well. The face of that front grill! These are physical traits. Cool physical traits. You fall in love with them and they join your family and you maybe pass along those traits to your children. If they’re lucky.
That’s why i like to shoot cars in LA. These cars, the ones with character. I like stopping on a dime, parking illegally somewhere, grabbing my pistol from the passenger seat, leave the car running and walking up to the thing, like I’m about to steal it. It’s not just the car, but where it is. You don’t see these cars on Montana Ave., you know? That’s why I like to note what street, or area I’m in, too. And shoot a bit of the street. Not too much, it’s about the car. But a few clues to give it context. On Lincoln Blvd, you see a lot of these things for sale. I’ll buy one, one day.
Nobody thinks twice to see you shooting a car in L.A. The owners don’t even pay attention to you. It’s like they were waiting for you. It’s like a sign of respect. It says good things about you that you knew enough to take a picture of my car. It better be a nice shot.
Oh, it will be.
Maybe it’s the automotive work all these years, maybe it’s just the love affair with cars, I don’t know - but I know within about 60 seconds what the best angle is going to be for any given car. I understand the car designer. And I know that very few cars look good at every angle. And almost all of them look good at ¾. But that’s the easy way out. 1" off the ground, ¾ front view, every time if you want. I used to draw cars that way in high school. That’s the 50’s car ad. That’s the beauty shot. Americana. I’m going for the thing that tells you everything you need to know about this car in the simplest move possible. I suppose with the Bel-Air, I could have shot that from anywhere and it would sell. So, I could just find the right environmental composition for it. But really, the story is about being cool.
LA is obsessed right now with finding alternatives to driving. I don’t know what will happen in the future. Maybe, ultimately, cars will be a cultural blip and we’ll move past it to something better. It’s true, traffic sucks. Smog is poison. The busses are soul-crushing. It’s LA, we’ll figure it out. It’ll get better.
But it won’t be cooler.