Autophoto, a major photography exhibition currently on view at the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain (Cartier Foundation) in Paris, explores photography’s relationship with cars since the beginning of the 20th century. While not ignoring the aesthetic representation of cars in photography, the Autophoto exhibition also examines how photographers have responded to the social, environmental, industrial and political dimensions of an increasingly urbanised landscape of which cars today form an integral part.
Cartier Foundation’s Autophoto exhibition features an eclectic selection of over five hundred works by more than ninety photographers from around the world. There are some well-known names: Jacques Henri Lartigue, Brassaï, William Eggleston, Daido Moriyama, Robert Doisneau, Man Ray and Martin Parr to name just a few. The images range from sleek black and white shots of cars parked on Chicago streets as photographed by Yashuhiro Ishimoto in the 1950s to the extraordinarily mundane, and at times humorous, street scenes captured by taxi drivers David Bradford and Óscar Fernando Gómez while on the job.
Photographers Seydou Keïta and Sory Sanlé document cars as a symbol of upward social mobility with their portraits of car owners posing proudly with their vehicular possessions. Elsewhere, Robert Doisneau and Robert Frank’s images from inside car factories shed light on the workers’ lives in the 1920s and 30s. Among other highlights are Arwed Messmer’s photographs from the Reenactment series. These ‘collages’ of photographs drawn from the archives of East Germany’s Stasi secret police show how people were made to re-enact their failed escape scenes in vehicles as photographic evidence to carve a semblance of rule of law.
Speaking of human relationships with cars, Ronni Campana draws a visual analogy between human bodies and cars in his series Badly Repaired Cars, showing haphazard attempts by owners to repair their cars using ‘bandages’ made from duct tape and plastic bags. In another interesting series, Peter Lippmann photographs nature taking over the remains of abandoned cars.
The final, and perhaps the liveliest part of the exhibition is a project by sociologists Melle Smets and Joost van Oona cars titled Turtle 1 – Building a Car in Africa who followed the trail of discarded car parts from the Western world to Suame Magazine in Ghana. In this place, said to be the largest industrial cluster of sub-Saharan Africa, an estimated 200,000 people work in 12,000 car related shops and workplaces. In 2013, the two sociologists along with the workmen and mechanics from the Suame Magazine, built a concept car named Turtle 1 using nothing else but scrap parts from 15 different car brands all available on site. The exhibition follows the ingenious construction of Turtle 1, which was subsequently brought to Netherlands for a promotional tour thus figuratively closing the loop on a circular economy by bringing the discarded car parts back to where they came from.
Autophoto (also a play on the French word meaning self-portrait) is a visually stimulating journey through more than a century of changes in photography and cars as also a metaphoric study of a (hu)man-made world that, for good or ill, continues to evolve. A must-visit exhibition for lovers of photography and cars and for the nostalgic souls.
Autophoto is on view at Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, 261, Boulevard Raspail, 75014 Paris, until September 24, 2017.
April 20, 2017 to September 24, 2017
At Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain
The Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art (Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain) focuses its attention on the world of automobiles with its latest photography exhibition ‘Autophoto‘. Since their first appearance, cars have manipulated our conceptions of distance and time and shaped the way we perceive geographical spaces. Automobiles have also influenced the photographic approach and practice, providing photographers with not only a new subject but also a new way of exploring the world. The exhibition brings together works by ninety photographers, including well-known figures such as Jacques-Henri Lartigue, William Eggleston, Justine Kurland and Jacqueline Hassink, who have focused on automobiles as the subject or used it as a means of expression. With over 500 works on display, the exhibition examines the many facets of automobile culture – aesthetic, social, environmental and industrial – as represented in photography from the beginning of the 20th century to present.
Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain