Pearl’s respect for her subjects is evident and refreshing in a time when the current trend is to show the “otherness” of bluecollar America. Instead, she presents this community as the backbone of our country, showing the hard work and close community that keeps this hobby strong. On an intimate level, she admires their willingness to get dirty and the enjoyment they take from good, not-so-clean fun, but in a broader sense, Pearl also explores the American love affair with our cars. More than in any other culture, automobiles are deeply ingrained in our identities as Americans. Demolition derbies were created in post World War II when new cars were rolling off of the assembly lines, devised as a means to dispose of pre-war cars and provide entertainment in rural areas. Iconic images of road trips, drive-ins, and car races permeate our culture. Pearl’s photo-
graphs play on that nostalgia. Pearl sees a lot of herself in the demolition derby. Like the pit crews working with the tools on hand, she is constantly working with her surroundings and circumstances to achieve her desired photographs. Finding inspiration from the derby culture, she has learned that she does not need to hide who she is, but to embrace it, and she follows her passion, regardless of any preconceptions that others may have. She is fascinated by the competition and love for destruction, the latter of which she feels is a reflection of our disposable society. Still, though the derbies are destruction-oriented, there is also an incredible amount of care given to the participants’ vehicles and conveys a sense of pride among them. It is fitting that Pearl has immersed herself among people who are not dismissive of
these imperfect vehicles, and who have built a lifestyle around finding a place for them. They have found a place for her too. She admits that while at first the crews were suspicious as to why a “middle-aged woman pushing a walker with a camera” was in the pit, now in her third year of the project, she is a welcome sight. Pearl’s own connection to this community gives her photographs a universal appeal. She astutely comments that, regardless of our own individual backgrounds and identities, “At one point or another I think we’d all love to drive our car into something.” Shannon Mohrman is a freelance writer from Houston, TX. Her writings have been included in various publications including The Circle and The Story Project. She is also a classically trained operatic soprano and an avid knitter.
Published on Sep 8, 2014
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