Above: Lamborghini and BMW supercars. Credit: Motor1.com
In Knightsbridge, London, a certain photo-activity has become popular with amateur photographers on Saturday afternoons. The photographers stand on the pavements of Knightsbridge and Sloane Street waiting to catch sight of--and capture images of--many noisy, sleek supercars (Lamborghinis, Maseratis, etc.) that are driven to the locality in order that the owners can circle repeatedly around the block as they participate in an ad hoc ostentatious display. The drivers parade their cars in a firmly established route that passes around Harrods and on to join Sloane Street before looping back. The amateur photographers document the cars with great excitement as they pass. There is something cutely reciprocal in the relationship between the drivers and the photographers. The image-makers are happy to wait to get their close up photos of a Lamborghini Huracan, while the drivers are happy to circle around for hours showing off. The ritual has an enjoyable symbiosis: a group intent on flaunting their wealth are met by another group (the photographers) who greet the circulators with enthusiastic fascination. The snappers need their subject-matter and the drivers need their avid onlookers. It's a lamentable spectacle, it might be said, but the participants in both groups are happy enough--they both get what they want on a Saturday afternoon.
It is easy to dismiss the photos made by the amateurs as empty cliche, but on the other hand, the nations of the developed West have emerged as hybrid technocracies/oligarchies so the supercar is quite neatly symbolic, being both highly technically advanced and also prohibitively expensive.
In terms of photographing power and wealth, Brecht described how the investigative photographer tended to be stymied by the bland corporate exteriors of big business, in late-1920s Berlin. Knightsbridge, in London, tends to epitomize the crucial atmosphere that pervades urban life today: it is a scene rife with gross inequalities within which the oligarchs remain definitely visible but untouchable--in their supercars, and glass-fronted luxury flats.
(31 October 2019)