You would think a news outlet that’s doing a series on cars and their owners would hire a photographer with a plethora of vehicle shots in their portfolio. But the Wall Street Journal’s ongoing column, My Ride, is as much about the people who personalize these cars and the cars themselves. So when they hired Angela Decenzo to contribute to the series, WSJ focused on her ability to interact with people as opposed to her skills with regards to framing up a vehicle properly.
I started working for the WSJ in early 2015. They found me through Wonderful Machine! Over the years I have shot for several of their ongoing columns, and the one that is my absolute favorite is the My Ride column where they profile a person and their vehicle. The photo editor, Leah Latella, makes the shoots seamless. It’s a real treat to work with her.
I barely had any car shots in my portfolio when they first hired me, so I think what drew them to my work is how I interact with and connect with my subjects and how that comes through in the photos. I love old cars with character and anything that has sentimental value. In that regard, I can really appreciate the emotional attachment and reverence that the subjects’ have for their vehicles, and I think that’s what’s been helpful to me with this work.
Another thing that’s been helpful for Angela is the area where she lives. She enjoys the location scouting aspect of this process and says the Bay Area “has an endless supply of amazing locations,” but that does mean she has to do a good bit of homework before shoot day. Some sessions are a stone’s throw from her house, others are as far as three hours away. When she arrives, Angela aims to get her work done within two hours. The more shoots she’s done, the more comfortable she’s gotten with photographing cars.
I try to block out an hour and a half for each shoot. For the most part, the subjects are very excited to accommodate my creative ideas, even if they seem odd to them at first.
Moving cars around to get all the angles against the specific composition of the background can be time consuming. In the beginning, it was challenging to verbalize the instructions to the driver about what I needed in terms of maneuvering and positioning the car into the right place. Over time, that’s gotten much easier.
Not only has Angela’s work shown up in the WSJ, it’s been featured in a book put together by the series’ author. Her work accounts for five percent of the subjects spotlighted in the book.
In 2018, I got an email from Leah telling me that the reporter who writes the column, A.J. Baime, was publishing a photo book compiling past WSJ My Ride stories and shoots called 100 Dream Cars: The Best of “My Ride”.
Five of my shoots were included in that book, which was published in late 2019.
As you can glean from some of these pictures, the rides vary greatly from person to person. This makes each shoot fresh, fun, and full of surprises. Take the time when Angela went and shot a ’48 Buick. The car, lovingly cared for by its owner, runs like a deer and comes equipped with all the bells and whistles any modern vehicle could want.
Literally every shoot I think to myself, “THIS is my new favorite car!” They are all special for their own specific reasons, as well as their owners and the stories behind the connection.
If I had to pick a favorite it would be Tim Vest’s Derelict, which was featured in the book. It’s a 1948 Buick that is has holes in the upholstery, rust on the exterior, and overall just looks like an old clunker.
BUT! Underneath all that is a completely modern system including GPS hiding behind the vintage dashboard, and a Corvette engine. It’s a super-fast and high-tech car, but you would never know from the looks of it. I love the sneakiness of all that power behind a very unassuming exterior. And his stories of blasting past Porches and other muscle cars at a stoplight and the looks on their faces as that happens.
Check out more of Angela’s work at angeladecenzo.com.
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