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I thought I knew car culture, since I grew up in Southern California, spent time with family in Detroit and have undertaken my fair share of road trips. Yet, the breadth and depth of the work in the nearly 1,000 submissions that I reviewed reminded me of the incredible variety of what we collectively think of as car culture. The best work went beyond just showing me a person, place, or thing within car culture. The outstanding work used the best photographic tools and techniques to make me look at car culture with a new eye.
We know that car culture is global. Before this, I hadn't fully appreciated just how global the culture of photographing the car has become. The work I saw and the show you are viewing remind us that internationally, the car can be a symbol of an freedom, a tool for mobility, a rusting leftover, a mark of wealth, a blight on the urban landscape, or the handiwork of a master craftsperson.
Just as car culture has clearly gone global, so the tools and techniques of photographing that same culture have spread across the planet. The best photographs that I viewed (and selected) had elements of the local culture, great use of the photographic tools and interesting subject matter. Collectively, these elements resulted in images that conveyed a mood as much as they simply "showed me" car culture.
As a photo-educator, I look at moments like this jurying as "teaching moments." If your work did not make it into the final exhibition(s) and you look at the winners and say "my work is as good as that," you may be right. Making the final selection was very, very hard, because images that were of similar strength and drama were often different in very subtle ways. For example, an odd element in one corner of an image or less than perfect lighting another could be the difference between the selected images and the images left behind. The best way to learn from this is to look at your own images and the winning images that are similar and figure out the subtle but important differences. That will help you grow as a photographer, which is what photographers across the globe should all want to do.
The best photographs selected were like any great photographs. They have a universal appeal yet they take us inside the imagination and eye of the photographer. They enable us to partake of some part of car culture through an image that is both intellectually interesting and emotionally evocative.
- David H. Wells
David H. Wells is an award winning freelance photographer/video maker using whatever technology he can to create visual narratives. He is based in Providence, Rhode Island, affiliated with Aurora Photos and is also a photo-educator. One editor described him as a “…specialist in intercultural communication and visual narratives that excel in their creative mastery of light, shadow and sound, stills and video.”
Wells became the photographer he is today by first trying on the styles and/or methods of other well-known and historic photographers. Then he mastered the challenging discipline of color slide film. He fused all of these experiences, over thirty-plus years, to develop his own style, built on a mastery of light, exposure and tonality, framing and composition with predictable and consistent control over focus and depth of field. As a photography educator, he leads students to learn how to consistently master these same elements of photography. He was featured in Photo District News as one of “The Best Workshop Instructors.”
His project on the pesticide poisoning of California farm workers was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize by the Philadelphia Inquirer. Over the years he has worked on assignment for such magazines as Fortune, Life, National Geographic, Newsweek, The Sunday New York Times, Time, etc. He also worked for corporations such as Consolidated Natural Gas and DuPont as well as for non-profits such as the Ford Foundation and the New Israel Fund.
His work has been in over fifty exhibitions and he has taught workshops at the International Center for Photography in NYC and at the Maine Media Workshops. He has received two Fulbright fellowships, a grant from Nikon/N.P.P.A., a fellowship from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and fellowship from the MacArthur Foundation’s Program of Research and Writing on International Peace and Cooperation.
David H. Wells's website.
Cars play a central role in our global culture. It's hard to image life without them. We hold antique car rallies, NASCAR races, and participate in Sunday drives and drive-in movies. But, we also realize the impact they have on our existence and our environment.
For this exhibition we sought photographs of cars of any type. Abstractions of fenders, social documents of teens behind the wheel, demolition derbies, highway breakdowns, car shows and car graveyards -- the sky (and the open road) was the limit!