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I don't know about other people who find out later in life they have certain images to which they are always drawn. I can only tell my own story.


My father was a quiet man, never spoke unless he had something to say. He was extremely shy unless he was talking about cars or motors. His Duke Engineering degree gave him an understanding of how things worked but his mind went far beyond the mechanics. He could hear a sound of a machine or motor and know exactly what was the problem. He could always fix it. When they were courting and during the first years of their marriage, mother told me he had a new car every year. The first photograph is of father with his Air Flow DeSoto made years before I was born. 

Father's fascination with cars continued as he became a traveling salesman for Wright Machinery. Through his travels he found the Daimler Mercedes Benz, a German car of exquisite charm and design. Frequently he towed home different models of the Benz with more than 200,000 miles on them. He worked weekends as a shade tree mechanic, repairing them. He allowed me and my brother to drive them around town to interest people in this new model car, and sold them to make extra money. By the time I had finished college I had driven twelve different models of the Mercedes, 190's with 220 chrome, 220's in many colors, and two convertibles, the 190 SL, the prototype of the Gull Wing racing car whose wings opened up like a bird.


After studying at M.I.T., I also traveled 75,000 miles but it took me three years. I continued to find abandoned cars and trucks deep in the woods. I felt they were vestiges of my childhood and adolescent years when I thought I had DNA for car. They reminded me not only of never saying a proper goodbye to my father, but also a way of finding him, again and again, in the spokes of a wheel or the rust on a school bus who had gone to a place deep in the woods where county school buses go to die.

The second image is a restored model of my brother's first car, a coupe model of the Isabella Touring Sports Car made in Guatamala. My brother bought me my first car, one that the headmaster at his school had dented and sold to him for $50. He drove it from Boston to Durham and gave it to me, saying he never wanted me to learn stick shift on his car. The third car in the sequence is the actual color of his car which died as we played tennis at Duke and watched it roll down the hill to crash into the fence, smashing the hood. When mother returned from a luncheon with a spray of flowers one day and asked if anyone wanted them, I took them up the street to a friend's barn where we stored my brother's car. The photograph I made, William's Last Car, was in Polacolar and sold to Polaroid for their collection.

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