#624. Work In Progress : Cars in their setting

By pascaljappy | How-To

Jul 28

Following-up with Steffen Kamprath’s interesting idea of showing off portfolios of ongoing projects, here’s a mainly image-based contribution of mine : cars that look right in their surroundings.



I’ve been photographing cars like this for some time now, but the idea formalised when watching Top Gear, some years ago.



In the episode, dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the E-type Jag, ever-provocative Jeremy Clarkson argued that, when you live in a charming little village in rural Kent, the regulations you need to meet are very strict if you want to change a window or do any visible work to your house.



And, yet, for all this stringent up keeping of the historical look, you are allowed to park the fugliest car in front of your immaculately maintained 18th century cottage.Β  As usual, the deliberate attack on Mr Clarkson’s less-liked cars contained with an uncomfortably high amount of surface-level truth in it.



In my mind, a hilarious comment, at any rate. And one that got me started on a collection of photographs that highlight copacetic relationships between cars and their environment.



Being disorganised by design, I’m totally unable to locate many of those, so here are some of the attempts at populating this project.



Some car photographs work because they really blend in like chameleons,



others because they create a striking composition



or tell an interesting story.



Sometimes all of these.



So here are a few examples from the collection. Work in progress …



As per Steffen’s original idea, the point is to seek criticism and orientation to find ideas to move ahead. Some of those appeal to me more than others, in particular those where the blend is strong (the old Mehari, the Boxter, the B&W Lambo, the beige Volvo & Fiat …). The others feel to me like nice pictures of cars, but not really like a project with a strong common thread. But what say you ?


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  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Oh, definitely a project with a strong common thread, Pascal !!! A bit ahead of mine – I run a similar but simpler one, I hadn’t given it as muc thought as you have. We have a succession of the most astonishing things parked in the street outside my place, from time to time, and I generally take a photo of the more esoteric ones. Can’t remember the last time we had a Rolls Royce here, but we often have Bentleys (plural), occasionally a Lambo or a prancing horse (Ferrari), across the road I spotted a vividly coloured trishaw (complete with a sleeping trishaw pedaller), yesterday there was a beautifully restored.maintained Austin Healey two seater from the 1950s, and this morning I found a pair of Harley Davidson motor bikes in front of my house (complete with bikie style crash helmets, as a warning to anyone contemplating any funny business). And all sorts of other weird things.

    Yesterday’s treat was pure street theatre – in the space of about 2 hours, they erected a three story building int the next block down the street from my front door – a huge crane lifted it in in prefabricated sections (all “bubble wrapped), built off-site, for practically instantaneous erection. Half the people in the street stopped to watch – one cafe cursed them a bit, but another one did a roaring trade while this was going on. Apparently the cost was much the same as on-site construction, but it was FAR quicker to build this way. Whatever will they think up next? I imagine it means we have one more shop in the street, and the are more coming. We’ll need a parking station here, before long.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Oh wow. There’s a company here that calls itself Pop-up House. They follow a similar principle but the build is done in a matter of days, not weeks. That must have been a sight to behold.

      The tale of the two cafes is perfect illustration of how businesses react to change. Cringe of innovate. Very interesting and bang at the heart of my main professional interest πŸ™‚

      Bikes don’t count here, but what a nice project they would make. Challenge … accepted !

  • philberphoto says:

    AbFab!!!! Totally taken by this project. And the pictures show how deep your trove of unshown gems really is. This is AliBabaLand! Fascinating how pictures that might look a bit bland in another context, or in the absence of context, suddenly tell a story.
    Now I need a couple of dozen years to digest this and see what I can make of it…. As Paul would say: Bastard! Bastard! Bastard!

    • pascaljappy says:

      “MΓͺme pas mal”, as they say in La Belle France πŸ˜‰

      You’ve probably seen most of these over the years, but never in a group. I’m glad I made the effort to find some of those and publish them here.

  • Adrian says:

    If I am around London with a camera and see a parked Rolls Royce or Bentley, I try a take a photo of it, although I only have 2 or 3 pictures as I so rarely have a camera with me. I also remember seeing a Lamborghini years ago inside a shopping mall in Bangkok and photographing it, because it turns out that shopping malls are a common place to display and sell luxury cars there, so I’ve continued the photographic theme on and off in various developing countries if I see stationary luxury cars. Keep it up Pascal, some of these are interesting and often artistic.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thanks Adrian πŸ™‚

      This reminds me of a photo I didn’t include here (forgot to) of Lambos inside a shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur. The students of a prestigious local design school had been allowed to go nuts on the cars and the result was quite spectacular.

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        I’ve always been intrigued by this – why on earth does anyone want to drive a car like a Lambo around an inner urban area in a place like KL or London? They’d rarely get out of first gear, and NEVER experience the thrill of “the open road”. Only ever once went for a ride in something like that – a Dino Ferrari, on one of the Italian autostrade, and that made sense (except it was utterly terrifying, and the driver was a notorious drinker who’d bingled the damn thing three times already). But heaps of these cars never make it onto a freeway – just meander around suburbia.
        I suppose it’s the automotive equivalent of GAS.

        • pascaljappy says:

          My guess is there are two elements at play here :

          * Showing off, obviously. Flaunting money is fun, at least to those with nothing else to flaunt …
          * One of my former colleagues had a tiny flat and a vastly expensive car (in Paris). Which amazed me. His explanation (this was the French yuppy 90s and he worked crazy hours as a software sales guy) was simple “I spend way more time in my car than in my flat”. Sad and logical, I guess.

        • Adrian says:

          In London during the summer months there is a noticeable influx of super luxury cars as young minor royals mostly from the UAE come to spend their summer in the city and bring their car collections with them. So I agree with Pascal, there is an element of conspicuous consumption and showing off at work.

          But hell, if I had so much money that a car meant a McLaren, then why not. Unfortunately, local government in London stills busies itself putting in traffic calming measures i spite of plenty of evidence that they significantly increaes pollution, and therefore sickness and mortality. So any luxury car in the suburbs would be wrecked on speed bumps – but if I could afford a McLaren, then I wouldn’t be living in the suburbs!

          If you think thr traffic in KL or London is bad, try Bangkok, truly terrible, but the elite there still drive such cars. I still find it amusing to see car showrooms upstairs in a unit in a shopping mall, or cars quite causally displayed inside the entrance.

          • PaulB says:


            Cars on display in a shopping mall, even luxury (-ish) cars, is not uncommon in the US.

            In fact Tesla has a storefront (showroom) in most of the upper end malls as well.

            Though, as foot traffic in US malls goes down this may change.


  • PaulB says:

    Hi Pascal

    You have a broad theme and a good selection of images in the presentation.

    Though I think I agree with you that some of the images seem to be more good images of nice cars, but they don’t quite fit the theme. Or at least they don’t fit my first impression of the theme. It took me a few minutes of looking at the images and reading the text a few times to realize that I thought the theme was cars that “fit” (my expectations for) the location, rather than cars that merely don’t look out of place.

    I am sure that if we all got together to discuss the images and if or how they fit the theme, it would be a lively event.

    For me the images that fit in their locations are the Cadillac at the Motel, the Boxter, the beat up BMW, the stripped Mini in front of the Boutique, the Mini in the Service garage, the Bently (S6), and the Mitsubishi at the street market (hood up).

    The Volvo and the B&Ws of the Lambo I’m on the fence about. This may be more about what else I see in the context of the images, or not recognizing the locations, before I can say if they fit or not.

    The remaining images are nice photos of nice cars that are not out of place. Including my two favorite images; the B&W of the Jag fender, and the B&W of the AMG Mercedes.

  • Steffen says:

    Hallo Pascal,

    I’m with Paul. First, after reading the headline and looking at the cover image, I thought “Nah, bad idea.” But after reading and looking at all the images, I see a huge potential in a broad area. The easiest way is to push it into a social statement. Cars that (don’t) fit into their environment: luxury car in front of a run-down building, shabby car in front of a yacht, sports cars line up in front of a club/restaurant, Jeep in town, expensive car in a no stopping zone, sports car in traffic jam … Or parking cars in front of their owner’s house/garage: expensive car next to a expensive villa, run-down car in front of a block tower, expensive cars in front of run-down block towers or tiny car in front of a huge villa … Or you can go graphic: car meets/contrasts background, repeats form …

    I think what some images are missing, and therefore quite don’t work here, is the lack of context/background. If your theme is “Cars in their settings”, you better show the setting. Otherwise it’s just a nice picture of a car (and some are really, really nice; great color, tone, light and pop). And if you have that setting, make sense of it. A car on the sidewalk … OK. Next. But if I can connect the subject and it’s environment in one way or another, it will work. And the possibilities are endless – and maybe evolve over time. Maybe it’s not one project but several.

    Btw: Thank you for keeping the series up. Anyone else wants to show his work off?

    • Adrian Turner says:

      I happened to see your comment again today and remembered that Martin Parr had made a series for exhibition (some years ago) with a theme of “the last parking space”, in which he photographed car sized empty spaces in otherwise full streets. To be honest, I thought it was all style (concept) and not much substance (art), as his photos appeared to be little more than “snaps” that he was taking with a Contax 35mm pocket camera. I only mention it as I think some of the concepts you describe have potential, but only if the pictures are really good – or you are Martin Parr.

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