Auto Portraits.

Photographs by Michael Spano.
powerHouse Books, Brooklyn, 2008. 104 pp., 65 duotone illustrations, 11½x9½".



Publisher's Description
'If Spano looks a bit conventional this time around, it’s only because he’s already made some of the most inventive photographs of the urban scene since Ray K. Metzker and Lee Friedlander staked their claims to the territory. Still, there’s plenty of his trademark layering, disjunction, and sly wit in these big black-and-white pictures of people in their cars, and their straightforward framing can barely contain the chaos. In the best shots, drivers are seen in profile, focused and oblivious but bombarded from all sides with billboards, signs, graffiti, reflections, and encroaching traffic. Security is an illusion, and the automobile has rarely looked so aggressive or vulnerable.' (The New Yorker)

Automobiles, trucks, and SUVs make their way through Manhattan traffic on a daily basis, clogging the streets and thoroughfares with a constant barrage of noise and pollution, energy and motion. In his second powerHouse Books release, photographer Michael Spano concentrates on the person behind the wheel, honing in on facial expressions and upper-body positions trapped within, yet protected by, the rigid structure of the automobile. Streamlined windows accentuate profiles, highlighting a range of emotions as motorists encounter unavoidable traffic congestion. Auto Portraits describes a private sphere within the public space, where people waiting at red lights or stuck in traffic are seemingly in a deep thought beyond the ever-present gridlock. Relaxed, drivers appear unaware of the busy metropolis, revealing a segment of contemporary American car culture grounded in the urban locale.

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