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A Brief Interview with Laidric Stevenson

SM: Who are you?
LS: Laidric Stevenson

SM: What are you?
LS: Father, husband, son.  Just a guy with too many cameras and not enough time trying to waste as much film as possible


SM: When are you?
LS: 1976 until ?

SM: Where are you?
LS: In the city of Dallas, in the Great State of Texas, located in the work in progress known as the United States

SM: Why are you?
LS: Because I don’t know any better, don’t know how to do anything else, and quite frankly I have nowhere else to go…


SM: Your series American Made Machines is comprised of late model vehicles made by American manufacturers photographed at night. The night scape that surrounds each car is serene and suggestive and like the dark often can, leaves plenty of room for consideration. Important too though is where they are photographed—in and around urban strip malls some of which are dilapidated; empty parking lots near what seem to be main thoroughfares or highways and interstates; behind fences, parked on grass lots and all of the vehicles, if not forgotten then are seemingly not all that useful any longer outside the realm by which we are giving them consideration now. Perhaps that is their function. The word machines included in your title implies that they do in fact serve a purpose. That they still have a function. So if you would, share a bit about the function of these vehicles (or these vehicles as photographed objects) be it commentary or task.


LS: I believe these vehicles do still have a purpose outside of the basic need for transportation. In my home state of Texas, the trend of urban and suburban sprawl means that new developments, new housing, new schools are built further away from older ones spreading the population out. Public transportation exists, but its continued development and growth isn’t a considered a huge priority here, so you better have a car if you want to get around. The greater metropolitan area I live in is called the Metroplex, and consists of the major Texas cities of Fort Worth & Dallas, and the smaller cities and suburbs that surround them. I saw a very eye opening picture on Facebook of all places, and that was the overall area of the Metroplex is roughly the same size as the state of Connecticut, and that is just a small portion of the state’s overall size. I also believe that the choice some of these individuals have made in maintaining a 30-40 year old automobile is a statement in itself, when for probably the same amount of money, or maybe less, they could probably get a newer foreign vehicle like a Honda or a Toyota. Also that these are not what would be considered “Classic” vehicles, you don’t keep a 1984 Reliant K in close to showroom condition that care is supposed to be reserved for say a 1984 Corvette. These vehicles are also from a period in this country when you didn’t have to necessarily say the phrase “Buy American” as a marketing scheme, people just did it, proudly and repeatedly. In most cases, particularly in the South where my parents are from, a boy grows up either a Chevy (Chevrolet automobiles) man or a Ford man because of the cars his parents drive, the cars he grows up around, the cars he learns to drive on. So there is also a sense of pride in owning a vintage American automobile that more than likely rolled off of an assembly line from a plant in Detroit.


LS: Photographing at night began not as an artistic decision, but a logistical one. My wife and I had just welcomed the birth of our first child in December 2014, in order to be behind the camera a little more, she and I made the arrangement that once he began sleeping through the night, I could go out for a few hours during the night to shoot. There is a certain stillness photographing at night, especially during the times when I am doing this, which is during the week from the hours of 11pm to 3am. Most people are home sleeping (except for overnight / graveyard shift workers), so there is less activity on the streets, sometimes none at all. After I photographed my first car (the Ford Thunderbird on the outdoor car lift), I began noticing more and more of these late model cars on the road, and then it became more of a hunt than just casually making long exposures.


LS: You are correct, the backgrounds of where these cars are photographed are just as important as the cars themselves, so I utilize wide angle lenses so that I can include the environment as well. I don’t think that it’s a coincidence also that the strip malls and other areas that make up the backgrounds for these images are places where middle America works and shops, as these cars are symbols of the middle class; the F150 which has been one of the most popular full size trucks for small business owners like landscapers, or the RV, with its enduring image of the official road vehicle for retired couples to spend their golden years traveling across America. The dilapidation of these areas speak to the difficulty small business face in the era where big box stores are able to serve consumers’ needs at prices that are difficult or impossible for these businesses to match.