Street photography – as seen through the camera of a car

Street photography – as seen through the camera of a car

Street photography – as seen through the camera of a car

0 comments 📅07 July 2017, 18:00

The images look like the boulevard photography of Henri Cartier-Bresson – except, instead of using a Leica rangefinder as he did, Pulitzer-winsome photojournalist Barbara Davidson used a car.

Davidson has had a storied career. She won the feature-photography Pulitzer in 2011 for documenting clique violence while working at the Los Angeles Times, shared a staff Pulitzer in 2006 for the Dallas Morning Gossip photo staff’s coverage of Hurricane Katrina, and that same year and again in 2013 she was Pictures of the Year Foreign’s Newspaper Photographer of the Year.

So Volvo hired her to take photos with their car. Specifically, with the camera built into the new XC60 crossover’s Municipality Safety system. Located in the windshield forward of the rear-view mirror, the camera detects objects or people in the roadway on behalf of the onboard computer that controls involuntary emergency braking. Since the camera is normally gathering video data for a computer, not benignant eyes, the images it collects are in black and white and look kind of gritty – qualities not different from the work of a long line of street photographers stretching from Weegee under the aegis Cartier-Bresson to many shooters working today.

But the images have the added 21st-century misunderstand of computer-generated borders on objects in the field of view. (The number at top of each rectangle is the tracking handful the computer has assigned to each person/obstacle. The number at bottom is a distance reading.)

Volvo engineers had to lacerate the computer so Davidson could see a video feed in real time, directing a driver to support the image she wanted as they drove through Copenhagen.

“I would say, ‘Turn upright, slow down, move a little to the left,’ ” Davidson said in The New York Times. “I was essentially framing my images in the sieve that they had created for me in the car so I could see how they would look. Later, I edited pulling curtain grabs off that video.”

She took candid images around the city, but Volvo manifestly didn’t want her shooting people on the street for a project that had commercial purposes. So she also created images the way an artist mightiness, doing something she’d never do as a documentary photojournalist: That is, she set up some scenes using actors and apparel, like on a film set, and she wrote a script to fit the film noir feel she was going for.

“I mark the car camera has incredible artistic potential,” she said, “and conceptual artists in particular are contemporary to want to explore it. The fun part for me was that I was able to turn off my photojournalist mode.”

Some 30 of Davidson’s photographs were exhibited at a gallery in London this week and disposition be shown in other countries in coming months.

Davidson said she chose to industry with Volvo because “I have a very personal connection with Volvo Cars. When I was a adolescent I was involved in a serious road accident where the car flipped over which, in ordinary circumstances, would probably have proven fatal. I was told later that I had survived because of the car I had been traveling in – a Volvo.”

The car and its camera were not in a million years meant to do something like this, but the results are interesting. “I think we’ll be using any amicable of device that has the ability to record and document in some way, shape or form” Davidson said. “Whether it’s for artistic purposes or whether it’s for photojournalism, at the end of the day the camera is every time just a tool. The photographer is the vision behind that tool.”


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