They’re everywhere: car portraits by Salvatore Rotella

Car Portraits. Credits Salvatore Rotella

When getting around on foot or by bicycle or means, I often felt surrounded by… CARS, by spaces full of CARS, by people in CARS. 

Salvatore Rotella, photographer

You guessed it right: cars. This post tells a story of a photographer who one day, set out to shoot cars and then made a book, Car Portraits, dedicated to the omnipresent four-wheel creatures that proliferate our roads and our lives.

We interpret, we emote. We can thereby believe that the object of our interpretations is sad or happy, angry or calm, sneaky or embarrassed. And in turn, we ourselves can become emotional just by our interpretation of others.

Donald Norman, in Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things, 2005

Car Portraits: the idea

The idea was born in 2009, while working on a project related to portraits. Though cars are not exactly the typical models for this genre, Salvatore decided differently. Or perhaps, to overtake his mind was that famous emotional meme, this time in a shape of a childhood memory of a dad’s car that “seemed an animated being”. At least that’s how the game started: seeing eyes instead of lamps, and mouth instead of air vent. But… if you expect some more emotional poetry, form here on it’s over.

Car Portraits: the objective

Curiosity no. 1: to implement the project, no “big camera” or a tripod was employed – all done with a tiny Leica that travelled with him everywhere.

The real goal Salvatore set to himself was that of investigating into the relationship we have with this vehicle. So insights and suggestions he was receiving form the surroundings, started to shift naturally, from the poetic “we interpret, we emote” vision toward a more cynical one.

It was not anymore the world connected by pathways. It was the world bound by asphalted roads. Much of our sidewalks are covered with asphalt – have you ever noticed?

The places he went shooting range from Pavia, Milan, Genoa, to Marseille, Paris, and his hometown in Calabria, but mostly: ”

…anywhere where something interesting captured my eye.”

A bike in a world of cars: the author

Curiosity no. 2: “Usually, I don’t carry my camera everywhere with me. I love watching things but I’m not voracious for photos.” 

Salvatore Rotella, 30, lives and works in Pavia where, among other activities, he annually runs photography workshops with kids aged 8 to 10 (“they are still free from the it-must-be-beautiful diktat”).  Our conversation could not end up without a thought on photography. Here it goes:

The thing that fascinates me most, is complexity: the complexity of a subject, of a person, of a situation, of the world. And that’s when photography comes in: it serves to back up and show this complexity, not to explain it. One of the photos I love most in this book (see the featured image of this post – Jurga’s note) is the one I shot inspired by a picture of Lee Friedlander that I’ve seen long time ago. That photo was almost choking with the abundance of details that were left uncomplete, cut away or hidden. His was a story of America in the prime of development: the country that was filling with street ads, signs, etc. Mine is a story about the world that is already full to the brim, of “faces”… and a bicycle. 

Salvatore's bicycle. Credits Salvatore Rotella

All pictures are courtesy of the author's collection.

Car Portraits: a photobook by Salvatore Rotella. Credits Salvatore

Car Portraits: a photobook by Salvatore Rotella. Credits Salvatore
Car Portraits: a photobook by Salvatore Rotella. Credits Salvatore
Car Portraits: a photobook by Salvatore Rotella. Credits Salvatore
Car Portraits: a photobook by Salvatore Rotella. Credits Salvatore
Car Portraits: a photobook by Salvatore Rotella. Credits Salvatore
Car Portraits: a photobook by Salvatore Rotella
Car Portraits: a photobook by Salvatore Rotella
Car Portraits: a photobook by Salvatore Rotella
Car Portraits: a photobook by Salvatore Rotella
Car Portraits: a photobook by Salvatore Rotella
Car Portraits: a photobook by Salvatore Rotella
Car Portraits: a photobook by Salvatore Rotella
Car Portraits: a photobook by Salvatore Rotella
Car Portraits: a photobook by Salvatore Rotella
Car Portraits: a photobook by Salvatore Rotella
Car Portraits: a photobook by Salvatore Rotella
Car Portraits: a photobook by Salvatore Rotella
Car Portraits: a photobook by Salvatore Rotella
Car Portraits: a photobook by Salvatore Rotella

For more information on works by Salvatore Rotella please visit his official website.
Words by Jurgita Po.Alessi
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