Armed with his tripod and his Leica, the American photographer Langdon Clay captured the cars he encountered in New York City and nearby Hoboken, New Jersey between 1974 and 1976.
Born in 1949 "in the middle of a hurricane”, a 25-year-old Clay used to wander through the streets of the city, guided by the lights in a nocturnal maze. In the dark, his eyes turned onto dazzling neon lights and storefronts, when the "night became its own colour."
At that time, the automobile was still an Eldorado, a testament to America’s endless possibilities. There was abundant free parking, oil was spilling, electricity was cheap and the smoke did not bother anyone. "They were all there, motionless, quietly parked. They were staring at me, standing still at the foot of the buildings. Side by side, as if they could create a kind of geographical and imaginary map of this city that I have loved so much.”
Clay systematically followed the same process, photographing from a side view the cars he encountered along his urban wanderings. Here, a Datsun 610, there a Cadillac Coupe DeVille, further, a splendid Ford Gran Torino. "At the time, designers were crazy and real artists. They could do anything they wanted, and above all, they used to draw by hand.”
After having been exhibited in 1978 at the Rencontres d’Arles and at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the series long slept in the artist’s archives before being exhumed by Gehrard Steidl editions.
The book Cars – New York City, 1974-1976 was published in October 2016, and now the works can be viewed at Polka Gallery, Paris, until 6 October 2017.
Main image: Sign of Good Taste Car, Plymouth Duster, Hoboken, NJ, 1975 © Langdon Clay, courtesy Polka Galerie | All images courtesy of Polka Galerie