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James Mason: Nostalgic for Cars

James Mason is a UK-based photographer.  After obtaining his fine arts degree from Camberwell College of the Arts in London, James discovered photography was far more rewarding than drawing or sculpture. He loves to travel, walk around cities, and take in the environment around him which feeds his visual storytelling instincts. He has traveled to multiple countries across Asia, Europe, and North America capturing everything from simple street scenes to the delightful interplay of light, shapes, and style.  This week atlas speaks to James about his love of vintage cars and what inspired him to start shooting them.

Your collection of car images is masterfully brilliant yet fun and whimsical. Tell us a bit about this collection.

I’ve been photographing cars for about nine months. The first was a green Moskvitch that caught my eye in Sofia, The boldness of the green paintwork and cars elegant form stood out against its muted backdrop. Since then,I have been photographing similarly attractive cars with the same approach to technique as and when I see them.

Did you originally have a project in mind to photograph cars or did you start taking random photos of cars one day?

This was never supposed to be a project. The first image I produced was on a whim just to see how it would look. Since then, I have produced around 40 such images.

What was your creative approach with these unique images?

I am drawn almost exclusively to vintage cars. Unlike modern cars, vintage cars tend to have very distinctive forms that are evoke sophistication and the promise of a certain kind of lifestyle that may be synonymous with owning such vehicles. In this sense, they are historical objects with deeply inscribed meanings that go beyond their everyday usage.

I produce these images with an eye towards making these cars stand out, so the relationship between color and backdrop is important. It is not satisfying for me to merely photograph a car that I like.

What is it about cars that motivates you to photograph them? Were you big into cars when you were little?

I have never owned a driving license or even driven a car but have always been drawn to them as objects, specifically their aesthetics and connotations. As a child I was obsessed with drawing sports cars. I would sit and fill entire sketchbooks with pictures of an imaginary red sports car with pop-up headlights. These drawings were all near identical and would be composed side-on just like my photographs. They even included details of the cars setting such as curbs, walls, and street lamps. I had never considered the connection between this and my photographs until now.

How was are these images of vintage cars in line with your other photography work? Is it more of a departure or getting out of your comfort zone?

Most of my photography centers on the act of walking. For me the cars function as a kind of habit or exercise that takes place in-between what I think of as my ‘real’ photography when I am on these walks.  I never set out to look for these cars but will just photograph them when I see them whether in London or traveling elsewhere.

While I will not always find interesting subject matter, there is a good chance I will see a car that fits this body of work. It is reassuring to have this one thing that I will always photograph irrespective of what project I have in mind and to come away with something I like.

What is your favorite car?

I really love the Porsche 924. I would love to own one in black.

What direction, if any, do you want to take this collection of images? How do you want to further this project?

This is very much a personal collection. I think of these images as souvenirs of my walks and the cities I have visited. I like to print the photos and to have them around. Ultimately I want all my projects to become zines or photography books but I do not think there is anything compelling enough about these as a body of work to warrant a zine or a book. For now I will just continue to enjoy collecting them with no end goal in mind.

Thanks for being our featured photographer of the week, James!

For more information about James, visit his Instagram.  All images © James Mason.

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