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Sleeping Cars
by Gerd Ludwig

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In Los Angeles County there are more than seven million registered vehicles. They work all day to create two of LA’s most infamous commodities: traffic jams and smog. But where do all those cars go to rest? By nature, I am a night owl. In what Kafka called his most productive hours, when dream and reality meet, I go out to photograph sleeping cars. I search ceaselessly for cars that speak to me.

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. I find covered cars more in L.A. than anywhere else. Here, middle-class families generally own more than one car, but their homes only have one-car garages. So many cars are left parked on the street for an extended period - lovingly covered, especially during holidays, when their owners treat them like crated pets. Around the 4th of July is a good time to find them — the concerned cover their beloved cars to protect them from damaging celebratory fireworks.

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.

Gerd Ludwig studied photography at the Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen, Germany and started working for publications such as Geo, Stern, Spiegel, Fortune, Time, and LIFE. Upon moving to New York in the 1980s, he began photographing for National Geographic Magazine.
His focus on environmental issues and the socioeconomic changes following the dissolution of the Soviet Union resulted in his exhibition and book, Broken Empire: After the Fall of the USSR, a ten-year retrospective published internationally by National Geographic in 2001.
Ludwig’s ongoing coverage of post-Soviet Russia has garnered his distinction as the world’s foremost color photographer documenting the region. In 2014, The Long Shadow of Chernobyl, his trilingual photo book based on 20 years documenting the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident was released by Edition Lammerhuber. 
Gerd Ludwig lives and works in Los Angeles. His project “Sleeping Cars” was exhibited in 2016 between February 4 and March 19 at the Fahey/Klein Gallery in Los Angeles and published by Edition Lammerhuber.

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