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Top image: ‘Tulsa’, 1963 by Larry Clark.

In photographic history, cars have played a major role in the representation of culture, society and time. From iconic Malian photographer Malick Sidibé’s still life scooter styling to Larry Clark‘s alignment of cars with ideas of youthful freedom, vehicles have influenced some of the most iconic photos of the past few decades. Now in Paris, contemporary art centre Fondation Cartier is celebrating that history with a major new exhibition.

Titled Autophoto, it comes thirty years after the Fondation’s iconic Hommage à Ferrari exhibition in 1987. With more than 500 works on display from both contemporary and historic photography masters, visitors are invited to examine how the car gave photographers a new way of exploring the world. From the French automobile clubs of the early 1900s with Jacques Henri Lartigue; to a road trip through the beautiful and the baron landscapes of America with William Eggleston, Lee Friedlander and Stephen Shore; to Robert Frank’s documentation of Detroit’s once booming motor industry; to Hiroshi Sugimoto, Peter Lippmann and Eric Aupol’s unearthing of derelict vehicles abandoned in forests and beaches, commenting on the environmental consequences of the car.

As the exhibition’s curators Xavier Barral and Philippe Séclier explain, “The automobile has reshaped our landscape, extended our geographic horizons, and radically altered our conception of space and time. As a result, the car has influenced how photographers approach their practise.”

In taking a in-depth look at how cars have been represented through the lens of photography, it reveals a deeper cultural cross-section through society, industry and creativity. If in Paris, well worth a drive by (pun definitely intended).

"Woman Waiting" from the Vector Portraits Series, 1997. Photography by Andrew Bush. Courtesy of the artist © Andrew Bush.
"Untitled Badly Repaired Cars" series, 2015. Photography by Ronni Campana. Courtesy of the artist © Ronni Campana.

Autophoto opens today, April 20th, 2017 at the Fondation Cartier on 261 Boulevard Raspail, 75014 Paris, France.