Auto Portraits

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ISBN-13: 1000431

by Michael Spano

Photography / Car Culture / New York City
11.5 x 9.5 inches
104 pages
65 duotone photographs
ISBN: 978-1-57687-423-3
by Michael Spano Photography / Car Culture / New York City Hardcover 11.5 x 9.5 inches 104 pages 65 duotone photographs ISBN: 978-1-57687-423-3

“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.

Michael Spano, former director and curator of the nonprofit Midtown Y Photography Gallery, holds an MFA from Yale University and currently teaches at Sarah Lawrence College. The author of Time Frames: City Pictures (powerHouse Books, 2002), Spano is the recipient of many honors and awards, including fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, CameraWorks, and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Spano has exhibited his work at The Museum of Modern Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, Harvard University’s Fogg Museum in Cambridge, The Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, and the Los Angeles County Museum, among others. Represented by the Laurence Miller Gallery, New York, Spano’s work is featured in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, and the Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Boston Museum of Fine Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago. He lives and works in New York City.