Red Chevrolet, Petaluma, California, 2007
Some of us are old enough to remember when cars like this one were objects of envy. Today, cars with tail fins are either expensively restored or junked. This one is neither. It is simply and old car parked on a street, in a neighborhood of vintage houses – as if it has always belonged there. I built this image around a series of pairings – roof to chrome strip, post-to-post, chrome-to-chrome, and fin-to-fin. The dappled softness of the shadows on the rich red body adds a touch of nostalgia to a subject already reveling in it.
Old Chevy, Shoshone, California, 2007
Shoshone lies just outside of Death Valley National Park. This rusting Chevy has endured many long summers of heat and sun. I abstract the car by showing less and saying more. The curves of its headline are repeated in the curves of the fender, body, and grille. The design speaks of another time – yet in spite of the coating of rust, the beauty this car’s design seems to have survived intact.
Abandoned car, Auguereberry Camp, Death Valley National Park, California, 2007
One man worked his own mine here from 1905 to 1945. His ravaged home and a rusting car mark the site. The car was parked on a slope, its front end pointing upward. I moved behind the car, and made this photograph so that it appears to be crawling up the hill, leaving a trail of stones in its wake. I deliberately aligned the crushed roof with the dip in the hill – the barren earth seems to be as well used as the car. The car has been vandalized by humans and tormented by the elements. It is covered in graffiti. Only a shell is left, but its desire to get to the top of the hill has not diminished with the years. This is the kind of image that goes beyond nostalgia for old cars. It can be seen as a metaphor for determination, perseverance, and perhaps even survival.
Pick up truck, Rhyolite, Nevada, 2007
Rhyolite is a ghost. And so is this truck. I found it parked near the husk of Rhyolite’s general store. It has not moved an inch in many years. Rhyolite, a gold mining town just west of Death Valley National Park, went bust itself in 1912, and has been rusting in the weeds ever since. This hulk of a car is an apt symbol for the place. It was designed to carry heavy loads, just as town’s miners endured backbreaking labor in the gold mines. Today, it stands as another broken remnant of this once booming place. I’ve abstracted it with light so that we don’t see details. We don’t see the windshield either. Only a gaping side window, half of its hood and an open door are visible. The rest is best left to the imagination.
Fire engine, Stovepipe Wells, Death Valley National Park, California, 2007
Stovepipe Wells Village, about 30 miles northwest of Furnace Creek, is one of Death Valley's three tourism centers. An old fire engine is a Stovepipe Wells landmark. I imply the presence of the grille, and keep the empty cab in the frame, largely because of the glow in the rear window, which carries our eye through the vehicle. The most incongruous aspect of this image is the bulging hood decoration, which looks like a nose. My vantage point stresses this decoration, which gives this vehicle an “in your face” identity. This “nose” is typical of the late 1930s “Streamlined” look.
Truck grille, Darwin, California, 2007
I found this truck rusting away in a Darwin empty lot. I moved in on the grille to feature one of its lights, contrasting the relatively clean glass to the rusting body, which appears as if it has been a canvas for an abstract painter. If we look at the subject as a junked truck, this sight is horrific. But if we look at it as a piece of accidental art, everything changes, and there is a perverse beauty to it all.
1933 Packard, Scotty’s Castle, Death Valley National Park, California, 2007
Albert Johnson, a Chicago insurance millionaire, built Scotty's Castle in 1927 – a mansion on an oasis in one of the most isolated places in the United States. The castle was named for Johnson's friend, the colorful prospector, Walter Scott. Scott told visitors that he built this castle with booty from a secret gold mine in Death Valley, and so it became known as "Scotty's Castle," even though Albert Johnson's millions paid for it. Johnson also paid handsomely for this Packard. It was a present for his niece. I made this image through a small crack in the back window of the castle garage where it is presently parked. The elegant hood ornament, rich colors, and the ghostly reflection in the window complement the headlight that seems to glow mysteriously, bringing the old car to life once again. Unlike the other cars in this gallery, this Packard has a provenance, and its colorful history gives it a value that no anonymous automobile could ever achieve.
Fireman’s view, Stovepipe Wells, Death Valley National Park, California, 2007
This is a view from the inside of the cab of the fire engine seen earlier in this gallery. The sun was entering the cab at just the right angle to illuminate both the wheel and the red dash. Its odometer has stopped forever at 96,899 miles -- this engine has sped to its last fire. It is an image that prods the imagination, producing thoughts of speed, daring, and gritty resolve. The door is wired shut, the tires are flat, and the motor has no doubt been cannibalized. Yet the firehouse red truck somehow still seems ready to roll.
Dead Truck, Darwin, California, 2007
Darwin probably has more dead trucks and cars within its town limits than living souls. This bright yellow tanker has made its final deliveries and now molders in the bush, adjacent to a building that has also seen far better days. Sometimes photographers can make a junked car into an expressive entity by placing it into a context that brings it back to life. That’s what I’ve tried to do here. The building and hills may get more space than the vehicle, yet this bright yellow truck still draws the eye because of its incongruous color and appearance.
Bodywork, Darwin, Calfornia, 2007
This car’s body is a mess. It looks as if someone was trying to restore it and gave up. Yet the vivid splotches and pervasive rust complement each other beautifully. I moved in on it, and leave the viewer with an abstraction that expresses the toll that time can take on even the strongest of machines. (I’ve posted another image, featuring the grille of this car, earlier in this gallery.)
Mortality, Shoshone, California, 2007
Peering into the old Chevy I used to lead off this gallery, I noticed areas of rusty decay on the inside of the driver’s door. I use this texture as context, and superimposed the shadow of the steering wheel upon it. This image is about destruction from within. On the outside, this Chevy may look indestructible (see the first image in this gallery.) But on the inside, as this image reveals, it proves all too mortal.
Final stop, Darwin, California, 2007
Three elderly vehicles are joined in decay – a trio of automotive ghosts parked forever in an empty lot strewn with broken glass and rusted metal. I backed away and found a vantage point and frame to make the rusted bodies, roofs, hoods, and broken glass echo each other. We were in Darwin at mid-day, usually the worst time of day for expressive photography. But in this case, the harsh interplay of light and shadow enhances the cruelty of the image. There is no forgiveness or implication here – the death of these cars is raw and hard and brutal. This is the final stop – and the unforgiving light offers a perfect medium for such a statement.