From 9th september to 28th october 2017

Langdon Clay


Marlin Room car, Cutlass Supreme in front of Marlin Room and Loundge connected to Clam Broth House, Hoboken, NJ, 1975 © Langdon Clay, courtesy Polka Galerie. 

Alongside the exhibition “Autophoto”, organised by Fondation Cartier in Paris, Polka galerie is pleased to present for the rst time in France the series “Cars” by Langdon Clay. Armed with his tripod and his Leica, the American photographer has captured the cars he encountered in New York City and nearby Hoboken, New Jersey between 1974 and 1976.

Born in 1949 ”in the middle of a hurricane”, 25 years old Langdon Clay used to wander through the streets of the city-world, guided by the lights in the nocturnal maze. In the dark, his eyes turned on. The streetlights, neon re ections, storefronts, headlights... “Night became its own colour” wrote the one who chose to away from black-and-white scene and the ”on-trend street photography”. In the night, behind the ghostly presence of people fading with long exposure, he discovered the cars radiating gures, both object of desire and object of the future, American culture icons during the blessed times of gasoline engines.

At that time, the automobile was still an Eldorado, a testament to America’s endless possibilities. There was abundant free parking, oil was spilling, electricity was cheap and the smoke did not bother anyone. ”They were all there, motionless, quietly parked. They were staring at me, standing still at the foot of the buildings. Side by side, as if they could create a

kind of geographical and imaginary map of this city that I have loved so much.” Langdon Clay systematically followed the same process, photographing from a side view the cars he encountered along his urban wanderings. Here, a Datsun 610, there a Cadillac Coupe DeVille, further, a splendid Ford Gran Torino. Further a eld, a Buick Electra and a Chevrolet Impala. ”At the time, designers were crazy, and real artists. They could do anything they wanted, and above all, they used to draw by hand.”

Fed by Brassai’s nocturnal travels, Eugène Atget and Walker Evans’ visions - other a cionados of the genre - and William Eggleston - who was his wife’s cousin- and his use of colour, Langdon Clay has gathered hundred of pictures of his ”babies”, shot in Kodachrome.

After having been exhibited in 1978 at the occasion of the Rencontres d’Arles and at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the series has then long slept in the artist’s archives, nowadays retired in Mississippi, before being exhumed by Gehrard Steidl editions. The book ”Cars – New York City, 1974- 1976” was published in October 2016. Langdon Clay’s cars, on view at Polka galerie, are also part of the major exhibition dedicated to photography’s relationship to the automobile set up by the Fondation Cartier, in Paris, until next October.