Watching People In Cars in 1970

“If I tried to do something like this today, people would probably stop their car, get out and try to hit me.”Mike Mandel

In 1970, Mike Mandel stood on the pavement in North Hollywood, California, and photographed people in their cars. “I was using a wide-angled lens and had to get in really close, because I wanted a reaction,” says Mike. “Some guys flipped me the finger, but more often people would just smile back or pull a face. They just thought it was kind of funny.”

“It’s important that the pictures are not just nostalgic because photography tends to render the past romantic. But, you know, we still drive cars, we still make right turns at the intersection. There is a timelessness to the images. There is also humour in there, not least me appreciating the foolishness of the situation I was creating by just being there.”

 

Car Photo North Hollywood, CA 1970

 

“On a late afternoon with the light low in the west I’d regularly find my spot on the corner of Victory Blvd. and Coldwater Canyon Ave. in Van Nuys (ironically, so close to home I could easily walk there). It was a busy intersection with a wealth of cars pulling my way to make a right turn. I was using a 28mm wide angle lens on my 35mm camera, which meant that I had to get in pretty close to the window to get my shot, and when I did there would inevitably be a reaction: surprise, amusement, and on some few occasions, annoyance.”

“In contrast to how this project might play out today, it seemed then that people enjoyed being recognised by the camera and readily participated in the playfulness of the moment. It was warm outside, the car windows were open. It was the window that framed and instilled these portraits with the language of the automobile environment.”
— Mike Mandel

 

Car Photo North Hollywood, CA 1970 Car Photo North Hollywood, CA 1970 Car Photo North Hollywood, CA 1970

 

It appears like an innocuous illness. Monotony, boredom, death. Millions live like this (or die like this) without knowing it. They work in offices. They drive a car. They picnic with their families. They raise children. And then some shock treatment takes place, a person, a book, a song, and it awakens them and saves them from death. Some never awaken.
— Anaïs Nin (The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934)

 

 

“Always eyes watching you and the voice enveloping you. Asleep or awake, indoors or out of doors, in the bath or bed- no escape. Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimeters in your skull.”
― George Orwell, 1984

 

Car Photo North Hollywood, CA 1970 Car Photo North Hollywood, CA 1970 Car Photo North Hollywood, CA 1970 Car Photo North Hollywood, CA 1970

 

Hear the crushing steel
Feel the steering wheel
Hear the crushing steel
Feel the steering wheel
Warm leatherette
– The Normal, Warm Leatherette

 

Car Photo North Hollywood, CA 1970 Car Photo North Hollywood, CA 1970

 

“I like to prowl ordinary places
and taste the people-
from a distance.”
― Charles Bukowski, Play the Piano Drunk Like a Percussion Instrument Until the Fingers Begin to Bleed a Bit

 

Car Photo North Hollywood, CA 1970

 

“Oh Jake,” Brett said, “We could have had such a damned good time together.”
Ahead was a mounted policeman in khaki directing traffic. He raised his baton. The car slowed suddenly, pressing Brett against me.
Yes,” I said. “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”
— Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

 

Car Photo North Hollywood, CA 1970 Car Photo North Hollywood, CA 1970 Car Photo North Hollywood, CA 1970 Car Photo North Hollywood, CA 1970 Car Photo North Hollywood, CA 1970

 


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