rush | 25 july 2017
In reality a burnout is extremely loud, ear piercingly loud. Drivers steer their cars with absolute aggression and disregard for personal safety.
interview: mitch alison
words & photographs: simon davidson
In our latest feature we explore automotive hellfire and brimstone with Takapuna born photographer and petrolhead Simon Davidson. "In this apocalyptic arena fires are common and severe mechanical damage is an accepted part of the process. The air hangs heavy with smoke and is laden thick with tire dust. The burnout pad is a high horsepower arena of testosterone and devastation. Amongst the total chaos there are moments of serenity. Slices of time when all the visual ingredients align in equilibrium, this is what I aim for. Beauty where beauty is not immediately obvious."
L&B: Where are you from in NZ?
Simon Davidson: Born in Takapuna. Grew up in Sydney. Still a Kiwi at heart.
What's your earliest memory of cars or bikes?
Driving home late one night from family gathering lying down across the back seat of a 1961 Holden sedan. Listening to the whine of the diff, looking up as the street lights are passing by. Tunes crackling from the AM radio, adding to the soundtrack of the moment. No one worried about seatbelts when I was a grommet. My parents were probably smoking at the time. I remember the car distinctly because my old man decided, one sunny Saturday, the transmission of the ’61 needed a service. Like a schematic diagram the contents of the transmission lay sprawled over the backyard for the duration of the weekend.
"Amongst the total chaos there are moments of serenity."
When did you first get into petrol head culture?
About 13 years ago I was looking for a personal project to shoot. One cold winters’ night I went to watch a friend race his 11 sec ute at the mid week Off Street drags in Sydney. It was a fast street driven ute and sounded angry when idling. I’ve always had a love affair with old cars and chrome bumpers. That night at the drags the cars were familiar but it was the people who caught my attention. From that moment I knew custom car culture was my project. I’ve never left. The broader custom car or petrol head project has taken me all over Australia, around New Zealand and over to the US. Mainly cars but also for motorbikes. I love how people will risk everything to follow their heart and dreams. Driven by blind passion for purely emotional and personal reward. These days my project is concentrated on Burnout culture and Landspeed racing.
"Slices of time when all the visual ingredients align in equilibrium, this is what I aim for. "
Who is your favourite classic/muscle car builder?
There are so many but I want to pick two. Both are US based car guys. Ken Schmidt from the Rolling Bones garage located upstate New York. We met at Bonneville years ago and became friends. I’ve been fortunate to photograph some of his cars. While shooting his personal ride we
discussed what made a good photo of a hot rod. Ken explained his philosophy of design. The way he talked about lines, stance and balance
could be applied to any piece of art. His cars are pure form and function. The other builder is Mark Skipper. Mark builds cars out of his garage in Fresno California. His life is all things 1950s and mid century modern. His house is like a time capsule of the 1950s. Mark bends and moulds metal like it’s wet paper. All by hand without heavy machinery, like they would have done back in the 1950s. Mark is a purist on
many levels. He built one of the most beautiful customs I’ve ever seen for his wife Kelly. The car is called Royal Victoria.
When and how did you get into photography?
I found a camera between careers in my mid 20s. This was back in the analogue days of film. In those early days the language of photography was easy to understand. Photography back then was simply chemistry and physics. Taking a photo was the easiest part. Knowing what to say was hard. To learn more about photography while working out what my next career was to be I took a job in a darkroom. Photography became the next career.
"Beauty where beauty is not immediately obvious."
What's your advice for young Kiwis who want to make a career out of photography?
When starting out and learning about photography, photograph what is in your heart. Even if doesn’t make sense in the beginning, be honest with yourself. Let this feed your soul. For your career you need to make money so learn about the business of photography. Ask questions and listen. Don’t take the business too seriously, occasionally people will comment thoughtlessly about your work. At this stage it’s a paid job.
simon davidson: www.simondavidson.com.au
simon davidson: @simondavidsonphotographer
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