jd callow, I agree with your decision. We're getting way off the subject here. I guess that's what happens when you pit an engineer against a lawyer...
Here's my tuppence:
It swings both ways.
I once visited Sacramento in California and would have loved to take some 'old timey' pictures in the Old Sacramento part of town, but street parking was allowed (despite there being a large multi-storey car park nearby), so all the buildings and boardwalks were obscured with modern cars.
Conversely, in Cuba I actively composed shots to include the cars (probably more flattened Russian oil drum and tractor engine than 50's Buick now but still looking the part).
I once developed an old part exposed film taken out of a second hand camera and could make a reasonable guess about the date and location because there was a street scene with a car in it with the number plate visible. So, as has previously mentioned, cars can provide historical references for future historians. Conversly, nothing puts a stock photo past it's use by date quicker than including a car
As I think about it, I do remember taking a few infrared photos of an old castle in Germany once and thinking how cool it would look if that asphalt parking lot wasn't there, or the jet trail wasn't in the sky. But, that's the reality whether we like it or not. That doesn't mean reality can't be changed, and I absolutely agree with cars being banned or at least limited from certain historic locations. However, the city of Springfield Missouri tried that once back in the late 70's when they banned cars from the old downtown square and turned it into an historic park. A couple of multi story parking lots were built nearby and parking was allowed on the streets surrounding the square, but the square itself was pedestrian only. I even remember reading a newspaper article cheering the city council for taking a stand against the encroachment of automobiles into the city's history. Was a great place for us young college students to hang out in and discuss philosophy, take photos for our visual arts class, or 'blow a J', but business dried up and the square almost died. The city finally opened it back up to traffic in the early 80's because half the businesses had closed.
Originally Posted by crispinuk
Welcome to reality...
Never mind the cars! Our mayor has Political Ambitions, with capital letters, and so we have new sidewalks (which necessitated moving my 100-year-old-bootscraper), new road, and (above all) new road markings with HUGE white lines and stop signs. His 'improvements' have probably doubled the value of our house but I didn't buy it as an investment -- just as an attractive place to live.
Having said that, I find my own 30- and 40-year-old street scenes in England, Scotland and Bermuda to be enhanced by much of the 'time stamp ugliness' in them. It's just hard to live with when it's new. I'd add that if you go to Lacock village, it's a horribly sterile, fake, Disneyfied village: you just can't pretend that William Henry Fox Talbot is still alive. Go to Valetta (or any other major, old Maltese town) and you'll see how an historic centre (Valetta, 1565 onwards) can be updated honestly without being 'Disneyfied'.
Roger, I love old bootscrapers! Around McGill University, some of the older building still have them. It took me a while to figure out their purpose, but it's that kind of genteel details I find fascinating across time.
Back to the car issue, my main contention with them really is that they have taken over our living space. But, as others have mentioned, it's not a reason for not depicting them, it's more a reason to think about how to represent them through my own perspective.
Using film since before it was hip.
"One of the most singular characters of the hyposulphites, is the property their solutions possess of dissolving muriate of silver and retaining it in considerable quantity in permanent solution" — Sir John Frederick William Herschel, "On the Hyposulphurous Acid and its Compounds." The Edinburgh Philosophical Journal
, Vol. 1 (8 Jan. 1819): 8-29. p. 11
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Originally Posted by mhv
There are two boot-scrapers left in the whole village now: I've not got around to re-installing mine, though I rescued it from being buried. The first modern tarmac road in the world (in Monaco -- look up goudronne, with an acute accent on the terminal e) is only about 100 years old, and I still take Macadamized (non-tarred) roads wherever possible: they're prettier. The village is at least 1000 years old: the Donjon (castle) visible from my study window was built between 1020 and 1060, and the local wetlands were drained by the monks of St. Jouin de Marnes beginning about 1100-1200 years ago.
I fully take your point about cars but (as I say) find them easier to deal with than glaring, glowing white lines. And signs telling the tourists where the footpaths are, which ruin any picture of the footpath. If you can't see where the path goes, and haven't the initiative to explore it without explanatory signs, turn around and go home.
I took a neat picture in LA when I lived there of couple of homeless people sleeping on the sidewalk outside a building that had huge glass windows on the front of it. Inside the building were parked Rolls Royces all shiny and new ready to be adopted and taken home.
Originally Posted by mhv
I couldn't think of anything witty to say so I left this blank.
Originally Posted by mhv
I agree with you that they've taken over our living space.
I think the problem with cars in street shots has to deal with the fact that usually our subject is behind them. I know that personally, I am less "bothered" when shooting an urban street scene if the cars are in the background - their often then nothing more than the OOF "aura".
Sometimes cars in the foreground don't matter all that much. For instance, if you are doing a shot of say a construction fence covered with various "posters and bills", some fresh and some tattered, the cars in the foreground can be a "plus".
Kind of an additional element of "urban visual pollution".
But when your trying to frame a "timeless shot" of some urban landmark - or shoot "street" full of people etc. - the car(s) in the pic can be real ugly.
If my very first post here survived (haven't checked) you will recall that I noted that until the 19-teens in NYC - cars were rarely seen in photos at all.
Even then, since they were playthings of the rich, they were rare, and they were not permitted to park on the street! (The rich had garages - i.e. their converted stables). So there are few pics of cars from that era, except if in use.
It was only in the 1920's as auto ownership began to spread to the middle class that the pressures rose to permit on-street parking of autos (the middle class folk didn't have garages) so that such restrictions began to be lifted. Nonetheless, even into the early-1950's there were many streets in NYC where no parking was permitted at all - and others had significant limitations.
What this means is that many of the iconic "street" shots by the "masters" from the 1920's and 1930's that inform our "photographic consciousness" and which we seek to emulate had few, if any autos in them. So that even now, many decades after the auto has become a ubiquitous part of the urban scenery - I think "viscerally" we resent it's presence.
If you're doing historic type photography -- historic buildings, landmarks, etc -- maybe you could talk to the city about momentarily blocking the street in front of the building off from parking so you can get the shot? Or ask the building manager across the street if you can shoot from one of their upper floor windows to get above the traffic. They may be willing to do it on a low traffic day for a few minutes, especially if you have a good portfolio already.
If you're just walking down the street looking for life shots, well, then you just get what you can take. A car in the photo will definitely date it, which could be a good or bad thing. Ever see a 1920's photo of a city street scene and found yourself looking at the cars as much or more than anything else? Earlier somebody mentioned using Photoshop to edit the car out, but I've personally never been very good with Photoshop.
But, as for cars taking over our lives, I'd be more worried about Playstation...
--Oh yeah, I almost forgot. Can't remember the photographer's name right now but recently on another forum I got a link to a web site showing photos of a photographer in NYC. She did extremely long exposures -- like 7 to 9 hours -- of ordinary city streets at night. The photos looked like they were taken in the early morning, and there wasn't a car to be seen on them. With a 9 hour exposure unless a car sits still for 3 or 4 hours it isn't even going to show up as a ghost image.
Just a suggestion...