“Ground Clearance” is a photo series by photographer Owen Harvey. The series captures a New York lowrider club, Lunatic Lowriders. The series is akin to Harvey’s other photographic work, often documenting subcultures and capturing both the collective and individual identities within the community. Harvey is currently based in London.
What is the context/backstory of this new series?
In the mid-to-late 1940’s a new subculture in America emerged and grew during the post war prosperity of the 1950’s. Young Latino youths had been known to place sandbags in their custom vehicles, so that the body of their car would ride close to the road; “slow and low” being their motto. This was aesthetically pleasing for those involved in the scene and would later be technologically advanced, for the same effect to be achieved by hydraulics. Lowriding had begun and the vehicles were decorated to hold political statements and sported images representing Latino culture. As the years passed and the 21st Century began, Lowriding culture became extremely popular. Often seen in popular music videos, the scene was embraced by cultures all around the world and had huge global appeal. For “Ground Clearance”, I returned to America and documented the scene in 2016 - 2017
How were you introduced to the lowrider scene in New York?
I became aware of the low riding scene in my early teenage years. I'd sit in my brother’s room, playing playstation games and listening to a lot of American Rap music. Mostly stuff like Dr Dre, Snoop Dog, Notorious B.I.G, N.W.A etc. Often, we'd watch music DVD's as well like "Up In Smoke" etc. A lot of this had references to Low riding and this was my first introduction. From then, I was pretty amazed by the whole thing, and since learning more about subculture in a broader sense, my interests grew.
What is the significance of the title?
Ground Clearance is a very simple title really. The cars in the scene often have hydraulic springs installed in to them, allowing the cars to bounce their wheels over a meter off the ground, whether they are stationary or cruising. This is where the title came from.
How would you describe or classify this series?
This series, like previous projects I've worked on, comes from a documentary approach, often through a mix of candid moments and portraiture. My interests, are in the political, socioeconomic and community values that are held within subculture.
Many of the photographs appear to depict cars as an extension of the character of the subject in the photo, would you agree with that?
Yes definitely. These cars are their pride and joy and owning these cars enables them to be part of their car clubs, which is their social group. I think when you put so much work and passion in to one object, whether it be a car or anything else, it's hard not to reflect your personality in some aspects.
Images courtesy of OWEN HARVEY
words PERWANA NAZIF
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