Naomi Goddard recently caught up with Nathanael Turner to talk about his series LA Low Rider: A lurid account of amazing jumping cars and the people who love them, at the 2012 Torres Family Empire Low Rider Convention in Los Angeles.
NG: Naomi Goddard
NT: Nathanael Turner
NG: How did you first become interested in taking pictures?
NT: For some reason, my mom thought it would be a good idea. She always kept a drawer full of disposable cameras in the kitchen, for special events mostly. When I was 10, maybe 11 years old, she encouraged me to take some photos for the country fair photography contest. I took some really boring snapshots of my younger siblings and had them printed at CVS. The county fair judges gave me a few tips and told me to come back next year. I photographed a lot of birds at first, but because I was using disposable camera, they always showed up as small white dots. Then I got a fuji zoom camera.
NG: Coming from LA yourself, had you been to the Torres Family Empire Low Rider Convention before, did you know what to expect before the assignment?
NT: That was my first time going, but I've always been a somewhat familiar with car cultures. As teenagers, my brothers would buy junked muscle cars and fix them up. We went to lots of auto shows.
NG: Low Riders are often perceived as gangs or thugs. How do the people react to you taking photographs and how did you get people to interact with the camera?
NT: Most people were incredibly eager to talk and be photographed. Weather or not there were any gang affiliations didn't really matter. The day was about cars and having a good time.
NG: Do you think that the type of images you produced of the Low Rider culture were at all influenced by films or stereotypes?
NT: I photographed a display, a spectacle. Events like this one are the result of many of those things, films, stereotypes, cultural symbols. I didn't intentionally look for inspiration to base the shoot off of. I typically want to distance myself, mentally, from any possible influences while I'm making photographs. I want to be inside my own brain at that point.
NG: There seems to be a correlation between your personal and commissioned work, do you think your own style helps gain you commissioned work?
NT: I know many people make very different work for commission than they do for themselves, but I like to keep the two as close together as possible. Every now and then I get asked to shoot something that is just so far outside my scope of interest, as far as the image, that I never show the photographs.
NT: LA Low Rider was for an editorial piece that ended up getting cut, how do you react to commissioned work that isn’t used?
NG: It’s always nice to see an assignment go to print, but sometimes it just doesn't happen. At least I was able to make the work.
NG: You previously said you hope this project to be as a starting point and wish to explore this subject matter in more depth, what do you want to achieve from developing ‘LA Low riders’ further and do you see it as an ongoing project?
NT: It's an idea that I may revisits, but maybe in a broader sense.
See more of Nathanael's photographs HERE.
— Naomi Goddard