People, Stories, Summer Series 1

Last Car Running – Christine Pearl

Summer. The season when lingering daylight and warmer weather draw people outside to enjoy summer’s traditional events and amusements. Summer is in full swing at the offices of Rear Curtain and we wanted to share the season with stories.

Over the next several weeks we will be hosting summer-related stories from different photographers. Check back each week for a new story.

Last Car Running

This series of photographs is about people within a subculture who work with what they have as they
embrace the charm of destruction. They love the process of grinding steel, burning rubber and
showering sparks to fulfill their vision of the American dream; a dream of creating the indestructible
car that is the last car running.

My photography of the demolition derby embodies the raucous spirit of what is proudly called
“contemporary redneck culture.” I’m drawn to this community’s creative ingenuity, shown in the ways
they give new life to old, all but abandoned, icons of the American dream, the automobile. The way
cars are so deeply rooted in our memories and American identity is part of what I am reflecting on that
through my photography. I also show the thrill of the journey and the ways the automobile serves as a
symbolic promise of individual freedom.

More viscerally, I’m attracted to the demolition derby by the competition, love of destruction and its
reflection of our disposable society. These same defining elements at the heart of the demolition derby,
as well as the derby’s demise, perfectly mirror the demise of the blue-collar American, who are
evolving further and further into a culture of poverty.

The demolition derby work comes from my interest in segments of American culture that are
deteriorating and slipping away. With roots in post-World War II, when new cars were rolling off the
assembly line, the demolition derby was a way to get rid of pre-war cars and provide entertainment in
rural America. Today, safety concerns, environmental issues and a dwindling supply of full-sized
vehicles bode ill for the future of the demolition derby.

I turned to photography as a way to face the onset of my own disability and the accompanying limited
mobility. As a disabled photographer I am continually learning how to work with what I have, like the
crews at the demolition derby. I have also learned how to play to my strengths, because I am attracted
to people, which is a starting point for making these photographs.

You can find more of Christine Pearl’s work here.

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  • Jeff says: August 31, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    Really nice work on a very intriguing subject. b&w was surely the way to go here. My favorite…. 6/19. Great stuff all around though for sure!