or Christine Pearl, photography has been more than just a passion; it has become a form a therapy and a way of life. At the age of 50 she developed a neurological condition affecting her mobility and balance, resulting in the need to use a walker. At first she resisted the walker, viewing her disability as a prison sentence. Trying to cope with the problem, Pearl picked up a point-and-shoot camera. In the beginning she hid behind the lens, afraid to face the world as a visibly disabled person. Eventually, as she found purpose and connection to her surroundings through photography, her fear subsided, and she began her work in earnest. Despite her limited mobility, Pearl is motivated to move through the world, observing people with her camera.
DON’T TAKE PICTURES
The success of a documentary project, like those Pearl has embraced, is dependent on the cultivation of a relationship between a photographer and her subjects. Without trust and understanding, the photographs of other cultures can appear exploitative or reductive. Pearl’s relaxed and friendly demeanor has allowed her to establish the relationships she needs to create strikingly honest images. Nowhere is this more clear than in her series Last Car Running, an ongoing project documenting demolition derbies and the culture surrounding them. Though her interest in photographing the derbies began as an assignment for a street photography workshop, Pearl’s history with this unique sport dates back to her teenage years. She reminisces, “My first car the summer after I graduated
from high school was a ’62 Ford Galaxy 500, which burned more oil than gasoline. When I could no longer keep the car legally on the road I gave it to a friend’s older brother to run in the local demolition derby. He won the derby and it was so exciting to see my car go up in smoke and end its life in such a dramatic way. The memory of that car’s demise has always been a romantic one for me.” Carrying the drama from her memory into the series, Pearl’s photographs use motion and low angles to bring the viewer into the energetic environment. In black and white, the smoke, white against a black sky, becomes a sort of flare gun, both announcing the event and referencing the use of flares in auto accidents. The act of destruction becomes more imposing when seen from the perspective of the car.
Published on Sep 8, 2014
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