F15 Gallery in Bremen, Germany presents Sleeping Cars, an exhibition of work by contemporary documentary photographer Gerd Ludwig. The exhibition features 21 large-scale photographs of resting cars at night throughout Los Angeles, undeniably the city of cars. Vehicles are the blood in the veins of this metropolis. Ludwig documents where these iconic Los Angeles inhabitants reside at night — tucked into driveways, proudly displayed in front of homes, glowing under streetlamps, covered with tarps or simply left bare — evoking a mysterious quality reminiscent of the almost forgotten backdrops of the noir films so typical of Hollywood and Los Angeles.
Gerd Ludwig explains in the introduction to Sleeping Cars (Edition Lammerhuber, 2016), “My cars are loners. They command their own space and enjoy showing off their presence. Like a devoted bird watcher, I have learned to recognize their sleeping patterns. With voyeuristic pleasure I’ve spied on them in their nightgowns. I’ve watched some sleep in the nude; some take afternoon naps, and a few lucky ones get to sleep together.”
The vehicles rest against backgrounds of varying ambient light on the winding streets of the Hollywood Hills to the flat gridded suburbs of the Valley. Nestled in the low-lying fog of these distinctly Los Angeles neighborhoods, the vehicles begin to take on personalities of their own. Each car’s distinct surroundings create a different tableau and tempt the viewer to construct his own narrative behind each vehicle.
“I like to photograph during foggy nights or a full moon. A few times the police have stopped me in my work, wondering what I was doing out in the streets in the middle of the night. Was I a Peeping Tom or even worse, a paparazzo? After being shown a few of the car photographs on my iPad, they’ve even colluded with me and tipped me off about interesting cars to check out in the neighborhood. The cars in this project are photographed as I find them. Occasionally, proud car owners will ask me if I want them to move or uncover the car for the photograph, but I generally don’t like them to disturb the cars in their slumber.”
In addition to the Sleeping Cars series, the exhibition will feature a small selection of images of Joseph Beuys, captured by Gerd Ludwig in 1978. The exhibit opens April 14th, 2023, and will run through June 17, 2023.
The German-American photographer Gerd Ludwig gained notoriety in the 1970s for his reportage work about artists such as Friedensreich Hundertwasser, and Joseph Beuys.
After moving to the U.S., he was a regular contributor to the American National Geographic magazine for three decades. His dedicated coverage of the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster is considered a milestone of modern documentary photography.
Sleeping Cars is an ongoing personal project. Gerd Ludwig lives in Los Angeles.