We return again to contemporary car advertising. What’s with these oil-painting-a-like hyper-real images of impossible perfection?
Well, they are not so nice as the advert shown above. How about this:
Lens flare? Check. Depopulated background? Check. CAD data instead of a real car? Check. Deep contrasts, dark shadows? Check. We are good to go. All clichées are on board.
These images gently hint at the tension between the image of the car as a means to gain freedom and the suburbia cars helped necessitate, don’t they? The two go together like bacon and a lot of eggs but we never actually see the car in suburbia in ads – unless it’s for irony’s sake. Suburbia is the enemy of the car’s cool image: all those traffic lights, speed limits, other makers’ cars, and children playing.
Instead the preferred style for many ads is to have the vehicle placed in a huge and obstacle-free environment. If there is a city it is in the background, safely distant:
If the car is placed in the city, it is usually miraculously free of traffic. Did you know that after 7.20 on weeknights Manhattan has next to no vehicular traffic?
One simply doesn’t believe in these images. Fitz and Van’s painted adverts from the 60s were as artificial as these publicity shots and yet they work well because one can project onto them. The CAD-style images shown here leave no space at all for the imagination since every variable has been resolved and the car is in a placeless place. The matter leads on to ask about why a real photo of a real car in a real place (every variable resolved by nature) can allow space for the imagination while these images do not.
The Photoshop masters are every bit as aware of rendering nature as any 19th century oil painter. It’s not a lack of skill but a lack of humanity, quirkiness, vaguess, ambiguity which renders these images sterile. The real photo of the real car suggests that you can go there, to the place, and see that same thing or something quite like it. That’s why you can project dreams onto a photo.
There are some valid reasons – to do with security – that mean it is very hard to take the 2016 Maxda RX-whatever out to a nice patch of the Caledonian mountains for half a day of photography. Cameras are everywhere and people are everywhere in the way they weren’t back in 1975. The launch might be six months away and nobody in management wants the news spoiled by a spy shot in Autobild or Autocar.
The necessity of avoiding places with people is that the images are sending out a very cold signal about these machines. Among the reasons I like my car is its relation to my life: family, friends, activities and its place in society. These cars above have no friends and never do anything except sit, alone, in dead places. The driver is not visible, there are no passengers. The cars will drive around and what then? Who wants to be in the places represented by these images. If you drove there you would drive away again.