Choosing to tackle iconic, clichéd subject matter is loaded with risk, and young American photographer Matthew Porter’s series of 60s and 70s muscle cars should be inviting stock photography comparisons at best, disaster at worst. But translating his adolescent fascination with classic road movies like Vanishing Point and Two Lane Blacktop (and the lure of the supercharged petrol-head life) into a photographic exploration, Porter has created a striking, subversive and tongue-in-cheek body of work, which has helped establish his reputation as a talent to watch.
The traditional stereotypes of raw power, macho aggression and burnin’ rubber are undermined by the extremity of the situations, or the sheer gloss and sheen of the compositions. There is no way the car in ‘Downtown’ is really making that Bullitt-style jump on the streets of San Francisco, but it remains a jaw-dropping image, something more rooted in Hollywood than reality. The detail shots of the supercharged engines render them almost abstract; all that chrome engineering against those vivid planes of colour making for some very intriguing Pop objects. And a portrait of an ambiguous, almost sinister female driver mixed into the series, or the rusted decaying body panels of abandoned dream projects, provide unexpected turns.
A student of Bard and ICP, Porter continues his subversion of American clichés with his next project ‘High Lonesome’, which will show later this year at the M+B gallery in Los Angeles. This plays with romantic imagery of both American cowboys and zeppelins! An unlikely combination, the show will explore how these once-idealised stereotypes have become tainted by their appropriation and representation over time.