In his latest series, Autos, photographer Nick Turpin explores consumerism in modern life through advertising reflected on vehicles in London’s Piccadilly Circus.
“Shiny new vehicles passing through the city are illuminated by huge bright screens of Coca Cola red, Samsung Orange and Xbox green,” Nick tells Creative Boom. “The light on the bodywork reminiscent of the ‘liquid light’ effect which is found in photography for car advertising.”
These documentary pictures, snapped in the popular tourist spot, certainly echo the aesthetic of the high-end commercial photography studio. “The automobile bathed in the light of advertising is an appropriate metaphor for the omnipresence of advertising in a world where we are all sold to constantly and every one of us is classified into consumer types,” adds Nick.
Nick chose the location because of the huge screen that overlooks Piccadilly Circus, the largest advertising screen in Europe, which claims to have an audience of “City Sophisticates, Lavish Lifestyles and Career Climbers,” according to Nick.
“Particularly since having children, I have become very aware of advertising and how it targets us whether we are walking in the street, driving on the road, sitting in the back of a taxi or even going to the toilet,” Nick continues. “It struck me that the light of advertising bathing everything in Piccadilly Circus was a wonderful metaphor for this omnipresence of advertising in our lives and set about finding a way to photograph it.”
Nick started with portraits of people lit by the adverts but quickly realised that the shiny new cars passing through the junction, probably the most expensive purchase after a house, were a perfect subject. “Once I started making the pictures I also realised that the huge LED screen in Piccadilly was like the giant softboxes used in commercial car studios that gave that seductive liquid light look so commonly used to sell cars.
“I also see nice parallels with Pop Art, the use of found logos, motifs and texts as well as the blocks of bright colour reminiscent of Lichtenstein paintings. Finally, I love the way that something so everyday and mundane can actually be so beautiful.”
Taking photographs at night, Nick used a long lens to focus on the bits that interested him and which made the pictures quite abstract. “The cars stop at the traffic lights giving me about a minute to make a picture. I step out between the cars in order to find the right angle to capture the best reflections and then run back to the pavement when the lights turn to green,” he says.
“I have to shoot a lot in order to get a handful of successful frames, in that respect it is very similar to street photography which is the approach behind most of my work. The advertising changes every two weeks so I run regularly to see what new opportunities there are.”