There can be a wonderful escapism in cars – they’re built to drive you away, after all.
And while I’ve been going from city to city for some time now, it’s with a camera that I can lose myself in cars.
In my free time I’d go out hunting for strange cars, but I don’t know if I was really out to find particularly odd vehicles like they were on some kind of automotive life-list, like birdwatchers have. The hunt itself – the quick, easy reward, the provocative lines and shapes that so readily stirred me.
Reading in a foreign language had such delayed gratification, the same for my term papers. Cars were by contrast so directly engaging. This car especially – I don’t really know what I love so much about old Citroens, but it wasn’t just the recognition of an early CX that was so satisfying.
It was that it was a car that I could pick apart, dissect, put back together in the little viewfinder. Flattening the panels into pictures on a screen, finding the intersections of the car’s planes and making little triangles out of a frame. I could just go looking for details, things that would remind me later of the exact feel of the car, of the moment of finding it, of the light and the warmth of that day. Even then, when I was taking these pictures there was a complete escapism – finding my way into a camera not only as a way of binding myself to the unthinking, unknowing machine before me, but also as a means of dedicating my whole mind to the task of setting up a new, engaging, memorable shot. If I was very lucky, I would take one picture that had its own air of fascination. Fascination is so all-consuming, something that my research did not bestow upon me with every page.
And my favorite picture of all was crawling right under the car to find out what those little black fins were – such a sweet, simple sleuth. And when I see the grime and the grit there, I remember a little bit of that smile I had when my brain grabbed that old Citroen, held it fast, grinding close along every surface feeling for texture. While my books, my papers, my classes felt almost unfathomable, I had fully grasped that CX. Satisfaction.
Now, once more, months of reading and writing lie ahead of me, as does a long, sighing exhaustion. Nice to see these pictures, opening a photo album like turning the key in the ignition and driving off to a place in memory that maybe never really existed. Time and distance certainly define a memory, sometimes sweetening it, always simplifying it. Still, it is nice to think that then, feeling holed up in research like I soon will be, I could utterly lose myself in cars. I’m certainly looking forward to going out driving with my camera tomorrow.