Photographing the Details of a Vast Vintage Car Collection

Pin It
Manual by Leon Chew
Photography by Leon Chew

Photographer Leon Chew was tasked with shooting the extensive collection of art dealer Kenny Schachter, and the resulting images make for vivid and visceral Monday viewing

Art dealer Kenny Schachter sees cars as works of art, and has spent decades collecting and admiring various vehicles. Schachter’s collection is also the subject of a series of photographs by Leon Chew which make up a book entitled Manual, created to accompany a show of the same name at Art/Design Miami Basel. Showcasing Schachter’s accumulation of rare vintage cars alongside two Zaha Hadid prototypes, Chew’s images form a celebration of the car as a piece of art, and reflect the passion that both he and Schachter harbour for the machines. “Cars are intrinsic to several of my projects, and not by accident. I grew up around the smell of cars; my grandfather was a mechanic and he was always working on the family’s and other people’s,” says photographer Leon Chew. “One of my earliest memories is climbing around in a wrecked MGB in our back yard.”

Whether a close-up shot of a car’s interior or an image of the entire vehicle from a distance, each photograph boasts entrancing vivid colours and visceral textures. “Full-on texture is important in my work, whether in monochrome or colour, and the colours tend to pop due to the lighting I’m working with,” says Chew. The effect is also due to the unique composition of the cars themselves. “In this case several of these cars have special paint finishes which you wouldn’t find on regular modern road cars, and that helps as they reflect the light in a different way.” This exploration of colour and surface is especially alluring where Chew hones in on the details, filling up frames with a headlight or a leather and textile backseat. “In 2009 I photographed the author J.G. Ballard’s car for a project called The Crystal Land,” explains Chew. “My approach was to shoot details of the car that worked across the full 35mm film frame – edge to edge compositions. This approach has stuck, and this project has given me the chance to fully explore it.”