While stuck in an L.A. traffic jam, Gerd Ludwig was struck by a tourist questioning where all of the cars go to rest at night.
“I started to wonder myself,” Ludwig wrote via email. “Driving through L.A. in the dark, I began to consciously observe where these iconic Los Angeles inhabitants reside at night.”
Over the past seven years, Ludwig has been photographing cars in Los Angeles in between assignments for National Geographic and other magazines. A self-described night owl, Ludwig searches “ceaselessly for cars that speak to me” and has created a series about them called “Sleeping Cars,” which is on view at Fahey/Klein Gallery in Los Angeles through March 19.
It can take many hours—and miles driven—for Ludwig to find cars that appeal to him. He sometimes uses small hand-held flashes to light the scene or even his own car’s lights or those of a passing car; nothing else. He searches for cars and scenes that have an “emotional quality.” In that way, the project is in many ways an ode to Los Angeles.
“I’m not only aiming to portray the personality of these cars,” he wrote. “The way they are covered also reflects the attitudes and cares of their owners, and the surroundings speak to Los Angles, undeniably a city of cars.”
“To me, the scenes of cars sitting alone on streets in the dead of night possess a mysterious quality, and almost bring to mind a forgotten movie set of a noir film, both so intrinsic to Los Angeles.”
Ludwig’s roaming around the streets has sometimes piqued the curiosity of police who have occasionally stopped him to find out if he was a peeping Tom or a paparazzo, but they end up helping him out.
“They’ve even colluded with me and tipped me off about interesting cars to check out in the neighborhood.”
The ways in which the car owners treat their vehicles is also of interest to Ludwig, who compares them to “the blood in the veins of Los Angeles.” He feels the cars almost become pets for their owners who lovingly cover them up or display them proudly in their driveways. He invites the viewer to become a voyeur through his images and to construct their own narratives about his subjects.
“People have their own memories and feelings about cars and bring with them those inner signifiers when they look at my photographs. They invite to attach personalities, beginnings and ends of scenes to those images. Maybe you can find the romanticism of an outsider in my photographs. The project is my love letter to the Los Angeles I have adopted as my home and that has adopted me.”