I can rarely explain in advance what kind of subjects or scenes will impel me to photograph, but when I find something that stirs my photographic soul, I become excited, act impulsively, and take a “shoot first, ask questions later” approach. These moments arise only infrequently, and it is most common for me to spend days looking for photographs without actually photographing.
Drivers Wanted is one of these photographs. In September 2006, I found this scene in Panamint Valley, California (the western boundary of Death Valley National Park), and was completely enthralled by it. The arrangement of the burned out vehicles, the rich copper color, and the grotesque and blackened cottonwood trees drew me in. I didn’t immediately understand why the scene so captivated me, but I didn’t particularly care – I was excited to make a photograph! I used my 4×5″ view camera, a vintage soft focus lens (an early 1900’s Wollensak Verito), and Fuji Pro160S film. A shallow aperture (f8 or f11) and view camera movements helped to bring the VW bus up front and center.
The title Drivers Wanted came to me before I had even exposed a sheet of film, and is a reference to VW’s successful and popular ‘Drivers Wanted‘ campaign. Further, Americans of a certain age range will recall that VW buses (this one is a Type II T1) were symbols of American culture and counter-culture during the 1960’s and 1970’s. Ironically, that counter-culture is gone, and so is the Type II. Even more ironically, gone is the possibility of ever again making a photograph of this scene. In February 2008, an organized cleanup took place, removing the vehicle hulks and all other debris at the location. Follow the link to see photos of this bus being loaded onto a trailer for recycling.
My greatest attraction to photography is likely its ability to freeze forever a moment, place, or time into single still frame. Even though I can never again remake this photograph, I’m happy to have found and photographed it while it existed.