Opening on April 20th, 2017
Thirty years after the exhibition Hommage à Ferrari, the Fondation Cartier will once again focus its attention on the world of cars with the exhibition Autophoto dedicated to photography’s relationship to the automobile. Since its invention, the automobile has reshaped our landscape, extended our geographic horizons and radically altered our conception of space and time, consequently influencing the approach and practice of photographers. The exhibition Autophoto will show how the car provided photographers with a new subject, new point of view and new way of exploring the world. Organized in series, it will bring together 500 works made by 100 historic and contemporary artists from around the world including Jacques-Henri Lartigue, Lee Friedlander, Rosângela Renno and Yasuhiro Ishimoto. Capturing the geometric design of roadways, the reflections in a rear-view mirror or our special relationship with this object of desire, these photographers invite us to look at the world of the automobile in a new way. The exhibition will also include other projects such as a series of car models that cast a fresh eye on the history of automobile design, created specifically for the show by French artist Alain Bublex. It will be accompanied by a catalogue including over 700 reproductions, an alternative history of automobile design, essays by scholars working different disciplines and quotes by participating artists.
Curators: Xavier Barral and Philippe Séclier
Associate curators: Leanne Sacramone
and Marie Perennes
“LIVE IN RELATIONSHIP ARE LIKE RENTAL CARS NO COMMITMENT” Lessons Learned America by Car Lee Friedlander Street Photography
Luciano Rigolini, Tribute to Giorgio de Chirico, 2017. Appropriation (unknown photographer, 1958). Collection of the artist. © Luciano Rigolini.
Based on an idea by Xavier Barral and Philippe Séclier, Autophoto will present over 500 works from the beginning of the 20th century to the present. It will invite us to discover the many facets of automotive culture – aesthetic, social, environmental, and industrial - through the eyes of photographers from around the world. The exhibition will bring together over 90 photographers including both famous and lesser-known figures such as Jacques Henri Lartigue, William Eggleston, Justine Kurland and Jacqueline Hassink, who have shown a fascination for the automobile as a subject or have used it as a tool to take their pictures.
FIRST VISIONS: A NEW SUBJECT FOR PHOTOGRAPHY
In the early 20th century, the automobile and its impact on the landscape had already become a subject of predilection for many photographers, influencing both the form and content of their work. The exhibition will begin by focusing on early photographers like Jacques Henri Lartigue, Germaine Krull, and Brassaï, who used the automobile to varying degrees in their work. They registered the thrill of speed, the chaos of Parisian traffic or the city’s dramatic car-illuminated nocturnal landscape to represent a society in transition at the birth of the modern age. Other photographers of the time were attracted by the promise of freedom and mobility offered by the automobile. Anticipating the modern road trip, Swiss writers and photographers Ella Maillart and Nicolas Bouvier, travelled throughout Asia in the 1930s and 1950s respectively, using their cars and cameras to record their adventures along the way.
The exhibition will also present a series of “auto portraits”* made by a variety of photographers from the mi-twentieth century to the present. Yashuhiro Ishimoto and Langdon Clay’s photographs, for example, are portraits in profile of cars parked on sparsely inhabited city streets, that immerse the viewer in a different eras and atmospheres. Ishimoto’s black and white photographs, taken in Chicago in the 1950s, emphasize their polished, curved silhouettes in a distanced and serial manner, while Langdon Clay’s color pictures taken in New York in the 1970s, show their decaying and dented chassis in an eerie nocturnal light. Other works in this section, such as the found photographs of Sylvie Meunier and Patrick Tourneboeuf’s American Dream series, or the flamboyant portraits of African photographers Seydou Keïta and Sory Sanlé, focus on the role of the automobile as a emblem of social mobility showing proud owners posing with their cars.
* A play on words in French: auto portrait meaning self-portrait.
THE CAR AS A MEDIUM: NEW PERSPECTIVES ON THE LANDSCAPE
Many photographers have exploited the technical and aesthetic possibilities offered by the automobile, using it like a camera to capture the surrounding landscape through car windows or the reflections in rear-view mirrors.
Cars have determined the framing and composition as well as the serial nature of the photographs of Joel Meyerowitz, Daido Moriyama, John Divola and David Bradford who have all worked from moving cars. From behind their windshields, these photographers capture an amusing store sign, a white car behind a wire fence, a dog running along a dusty road, a highway stretching out into the horizon. Other photographers, including Sue Barr, Robert Adams, Ed Ruscha, and Alex MacLean scrutinize our car-altered environment. Their landscape is no longer one of magnificent mountains, wondrous waterfalls or awe-inspiring canyons, but of a world transformed by the automobile with its suburban housing complexes, parking lots, and highway infrastructure.
OUR CAR CULTURE: INDUSTRY, HISTORY AND NEW WAYS OF LIFE
Many photographers have explored other aspects of our car culture, from the car industry and its impact on the environment to its role in history and society. Both Robert Doisneau and Robert Frank registered life in the factory, from the machines and productions lines to the activities of the workers lives, the first at the Renault plant in the 1930s and the second at Ford River Rouge in the 1950s. Their photographs, unique in their attention to individual assembly line workers, contrast with the work of contemporary photographer Stéphane Couturier whose deliberately distanced, impersonal pictures taken at a Toyota factory reflect the increasingly dehumanized nature of contemporary industry.
Working in Ghana, far from the automated factory photographed by Stéphane Couturier, Dutch artist Melle Smets, and sociologist Joost Van Onna, put industrial waste from the car industry to good use. Collaborating with local craftsman in a region called Suame Magazine, where cars are disassembled and their parts traded, they created a car specifically for the African market called Turtle 1, using parts from different brands that happened to be available. Their installation, which includes photographs, drawings, and videos, documents the entire fabrication process of this car.
Photographers such as Philippe Chancel, Éric Aupol and Edward Burtynsky are concerned with the car industry’s damage to the environment. Philippe Chancel’s work focuses on the city of Flint and its dismantled General Motors factory, while Éric Aupol’s and Ed Burtynsky’s photographs reveal the sculptural yet apocalyptic beauty of industrial waste sites.
Other photographers reveal how the car plays an important role in historical events, in society and in daily life. Arwed Messmer’s Reenactement series brings together photographs from the archives of the Stasi showing how people used cars in unusual ways to escape from East Germany, and Fernando Gutiérrez work, Secuelas, explores the role of the Ford Falcon, a symbol of Argentina’s military dictatorship, in the collective imaginary of the Argentinean people. Jacqueline Hassink’s immersive projection Car Girls investigates the role and status of women who work in car shows around the world. Martin Parr’s series From A to B chronicles the thoughts dreams and anxieties of British motorists. Still other series by photographers such as Rosângela Rennó, Óscar Monzón, Kurt Caviezel and Bruce Davidson show how the car has become an extension of the home, used for weddings and picnics, living and sleeping, arguments and making love.
The Fondation Cartier has also invited artist Alain Bublex to create for the exhibition a series of 10 model cars that cast a fresh eye on the history of automobile design. His installation combines photographs, drawings and models to explore how the car design has evolved over time incorporating new techniques, forms, and practices.
Despite energy crises, ecology movements, and industrial mismanagement, the car remains essential to our daily lives. At a time when we are questioning the role and the future of the automobile in our society, the Autophoto exhibition reexamines, with nostalgia, humor, and a critical eye, this 20th century symbol of freedom and independence.
A new exhibition explores the car’s photographic appeal.
In his on-going collaboration with the designer, British photographer Jacob Lillis’s washed out images of flowers in and around cars have become synonymous with the Simone Rocha brand, the soberly titled Flowers and Cars series in turn showcasing some his most recognisable work. In November, Sophie Green’s Dented Pride – an offshoot of her visual exploration of the Stock Car and Banger racing subculture – was picked up by streetwear label Carhartt, resulting in a limited 300 piece run of vacuum packed cards and an overflowing launch event with Ditto Press.
The car, as previously determined by Jamie Hawkesworth, who shot the very first J.W. Anderson campaign against a backdrop of car carpets in 2013 (models clutched car doors), is a constant source of inspiration for the contemporary photographer but the phenomenon, unsurprisingly, is nothing new, as a new exhibition details.
Autophoto, which opens tomorrow at Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain in Paris, is the museum’s second show dedicated to motor vehicles, following Hommage à Ferrari in 1997. Boasting a catalogue of over 500 images, Autophoto – derived simply from the union of ‘automobile’ and ‘photography’ – examines the relationship between the two, from the way the car has shaped the photographic landscape to the photographer’s altered concept of time and space; how such immediate access to the rest of the world has produced modern imagery, and what this association might mean moving forward.
From Man Ray and Mary Ellen Mark through to Larry Clark and Martin Parr, the line-up features some of photography’s biggest names from the 20th and 21st century, as well as many less familiar. On the eve of the show’s launch, we stole a moment with associate curator, Leanne Sacramone.
Andrew Bush, Woman Waiting to Proceed South at Sunset and Highland Boulevards, Los Angeles, at Approximately 11:59 am. One Day in February 1997, Vector Portraits series, 1997, courtesy M+B Gallery, Los Angeles
© Andrew Bush
Where did the inspiration for a photographic exhibition about cars initiate?
Well, this is an exhibition we are doing with two outside curators – Philippe Séclier, who is editor of a magazine called AUTOhebdo and someone who is really passionate about photography, he did a documentary on Robert Frank in 2009, and Xavier Barral, who is a publisher of art books and photography books. Their point of departure for the show was the idea that photography and cars are two inventions that go back to the Industrial Revolution, and they have a similarity in that there’s this idea of production in series, for photographs – and production of cars as well – and there’s also a democratic idea, of being able to drive around individually and using your camera individually to take pictures, so all those ideas came together to make this show.
What interested them also was, not only how the car offered new themes and subjects for photographers, but also a new point of view and a new way of taking pictures, because many photographers actually used their cars like an extension of their camera; they’d get into their cars and they’d take pictures, so a lot of the photographs in this show are also landscape photographs. So, you have a whole bunch of themes that have to do with the car itself, the car as an object, the car industry, the usage of the car, the car as an extension of the home, also the idea of the environmental pollution by the car, all of that is dealt with in the show, but also there’s a whole section of, I would say landscape photography done from the car – road trips, artists who would go on road trips and take pictures from their car.
We’re also, I mean it wasn’t the original intention, but in a time when we’re questioning the role of the car – what are cars going to be in the future – we don’t deal with that subject directly, but we’re kind of looking back on the car over the 20th century through the eyes of photographers at a time where, today, we’re questioning the future of what the car will be.
How easy was it to select the photographers and works featured?
It was very difficult, because we started out with a database of 6,000 photographs that we’d all researched – even more I would say – and we had to cut down the selection; ideally we should have cut it to 350 but there are 500 works in the show, so it’s very dense, and you realise, it’s a subject that so many photographers have dealt with. One of the basis’s for selection was this idea of series, we’re showing many photographic series, because of the idea of seriality and the idea of mass production of cars and also, many photographers have shown, basically an obsession or a fascination for the car and you can see that in the way they make a series around (it) and the fact that the car lends itself to making serial photographs – you’re driving and what you see outside is moving, almost in a cinematic way, and photographers will shoot many pictures from their cars as it’s moving.
Photographers have long been drawn to cars for aesthetic reasons. Why do you think this is?
Well, a car is interesting to use as a tool when you’re a photographer, you get in you drive around and you use the windows as a frame for your pictures, you use the rearview mirrors to create reflections, they help you compose your pictures in a different way, and see the landscape in a different way, or the city in a different way. They’re also fascinated with them as a symbol of freedom and modernity and speed, really they were 20th century symbols for all of those things.
And can you think of any significant moments or developments within the photographic industry that has come about as the result of the car?
I’m not sure cars have had any impact on the photographic industry, what I do know is that, for example, Kodak used to – at the beginning of the century – they did a series of advertisements ‘Kodak on the go’, with a woman always with a camera in a car or next to a car (always about to leave in a car), so the two have always been connected
Were there any big surprises during the curation of the show?
Oh gosh, that’s a difficult question. The biggest surprise is the sheer quantity of photographers who have dealt with the subject, and I guess another big surprise is how many photographers have used the same motifs and similar motifs such as the perspective of the road going off into the distance, or using the car side windows as a frame to frame the landscape or the rearview mirror; those motifs come back over and over again.
And did you have a specific audience in mind when you were putting the show together?
Well, we’d like to have a large audience – we’re directing this show to basically everyone who’s interested in photography and cars.
Makes sense. So what do you hope visitors will take away from the exhibition?
I just hope people have a really great experience seeing beautiful photographs from the 20th century up until the present; to enjoy seeing these photographs come together – I mean there’s so many of them and they’re very beautiful, and I just hope people enjoy taking their time to look at them, and discovering them.
And finally, do you have a favourite piece?
Oh I never like to talk about favourite pictures when I’m talking to journalists haha, I always end up insulting one artist or hurting someone’s feelings.
Autophoto runs from 20th April to 24th September at the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain; learn more here.
Words Zoe Whitfield
APRIL 19, 2017