The Views From These Car Washes Will Make You Want to Wash Your Car

The Photo Blog
Sept. 3 2014 11:17 AM

The Views From These Car Washes Will Make You Want to Wash Your Car

Best-Way, North Adams, MA  2013.
Best-Way, North Adams, MA 2013.

Mark Lyon

Often, an idea needs to incubate for a little while before it turns into a full-fledged project.

For Mark Lyon, that process took roughly four years. In 2007, Lyon photographed a frozen car wash bay wall and said he was attracted to the symmetry and decor of the space. In 2011, he began shooting car washes in earnest around the New York Hudson Valley and New England areas, eventually creating a series titled “Bay Views.”

Lyon said that although he is drawn to car washes that appear to have been abandoned, most of the 24-hours self-service washes he shoots are still functioning.


He also isn’t in a rush to make many of the images in “Bay Views.” Because he relies on natural light, Lyon said he sometimes waits for years to get the shot he sets up in his mind and often revisits the location in different seasons to see how the light moves through the fog or snow.

“Sometimes all the elements are cooperative on the first visit, but I still have a tendency to want to go back and explore what else might happen,” he said.

“A big part of what I’m looking for is the balance of interior and exterior light. In some locations where there is an interesting view, I just have to wait for the circumstances to be correct.”

Scotchtown, Middletown, NY 2012.
Scotchtown, Middletown, NY 2012.

Mark Lyon

Be-Wise, New Paltz, NY  2012.
Be-Wise, New Paltz, NY 2012.

Mark Lyon

Foam & Wash, Poughkeepsie, NY 2012.
Foam & Wash, Poughkeepsie, NY 2012.

Mark Lyon

Shooting at night also helps to create a somewhat lonely feeling within the images and Lyon said he shoots with relatively long exposures, based around “the flickering cycle of a street light or (on) traffic patterns.”

“I established early on that I would not use any image that features my own cast shadow, a person, or use any image that has car light trails in it. I think avoiding these elements has had the effect of creating a slower and quieter reading of the images.”

Lyon’s previous series, “Landscapes for the People,” featured on Slate last year, also focused on a quieter part of life: murals inside office spaces. He is drawn to the passing of time in his work but said he isn’t necessarily focused on nostalgia.  

“I am visually drawn to images, objects and spaces that show their age,” he said. “I think the ‘quietness’ in my work comes from photographing spaces designed for our interaction without any figures present; the viewer can occupy these photographic spaces and create their own visual narratives.”

Diamond, New Paltz, NY  2012.
Diamond, New Paltz, NY 2012.

Mark Lyon

Defunct (Winter), Newburgh, NY  2014.
Defunct (Winter), Newburgh, NY 2014.

Mark Lyon

Purple Parlor, Poughkeepsie, NY  2013.
Purple Parlor, Poughkeepsie, NY 2013.

Mark Lyon

Defunct (Summer), Newburgh, NY  2013.
Defunct (Summer), Newburgh, NY 2013.

Mark Lyon

David Rosenberg is the editor of Slate’s Behold blog. He has worked as a photo editor for 15 years and is a tennis junkie. Follow him on Twitter.



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