Ryan Schude is here to pay homage to the car capital of the world with his series Them and Theirs. In these cinematic, slightly campy, images, Californians pose in eternal sunshine with their wheels of glory.
It's no surprise that the vintage cars in these photos come across as characters, even companions, rather than modes of transportation. Perched on the hoods of Mercedes and Volkswagens in big sunglasses and wedge sandals, some of the women photographed gently parody L.A., with heady fantasies of what Hollywood might be, or is, for some. Other photos are staged like film stills—a man paints a staircase with a long ribbon of yellow, a woman holds a bouquet of flowers in the driveway of a castle-like church. "My work is mostly created narratives," Schude tells Co.Design, "so this is a blend of that while incorporating more of a documentary, portrait series at the same time."
The project began back in 2001, when Schude was enrolled at the San Francisco Art Institute. He started taking pictures of cars with vanity license plates, but soon abandoned the project and didn’t pick it up again until 10 years later. Many of the subjects he shot were friends or acquaintances. He also found models by leaving notes under strangers' windshield wipers in parking lots, along with examples of his car portraits by way of explaining that he'd like them to participate in his project.
And he meant "participate." Before each shoot, Schude talks with the subject about the location and scene they'd like to build together. Wardrobe choices and props are chosen collaboratively. It's a decent gesture.
Schude intends to photographs people and their cars for as long as he can—even for another 20 years, he insists. Well, for now there's certainly no shortage of cars or willing models in town.