Photographer Chaz Warren explores the dreamland of Los Angeles through his photographs of the distinct car culture that inhabits the city
Think back to some of the most iconic imagery of Southern California. What do you see? Classic cars parked along the boardwalk in decades passed, a scenic journey up Mulholland Drive, and even the booming low-rider culture all resonate with a distinct aura of Los Angeles.
Today, amidst the rise of electric and technologically advancing cars, there is a resurging love for vintage and classic automobiles and Chaz Warren is there to document it. Warren has taken his own love for photography and car culture and intertwined the two. His imagery captures the contemporary car culture through his signature style that alludes to the history of the scene.
Why Los Angeles?
While his work explores the automotive landscape across California and beyond, Los Angeles has become a pivotal setting for some of his most prolific work. He draws on his experience growing up in southern California. He knows the streets where this infatuation with cars emerged and grew into an internationally known scene. His is a perspective that embodies the authentic history and trajectory of the culture.
TM: Los Angeles has become a trend-setting capital for the world. Needless to say, for decades it has been an icon of automotive culture, a scene you have left your mark on as an artist. Reflecting on this, what do you believe is the role of a photographer in the world of car culture, especially that of Los Angeles?
CW: With the world moving to electric & self-driving cars, I believe currently capturing the current moments of the automotive culture in Los Angeles is capturing history. Future generations years from now won’t be able to experience the sounds/modifications, and the culture that combustion engines have made. They have brought people together in ways that I don’t think electric cars will.
TM: We have seen your work with images amidst the chaos of the city, surrounded by the action of the race track, on the swerving hills and back roads, and even amongst nature. What has become your favorite setting to shoot and why?
CW: I love shooting in the backroads and hills of Hollywood. It’s a perfect mix of nature and the nostalgic architecture of Los Angeles, complemented by the DTLA (Downtown Los Angeles) skyline in the distance.
A Mechanical Dreamland
Warren translates the nostalgia of the city into his photographic methodology. His choice of setting is enhanced through his choice of subject. Each car is an intentionally selected symbol of how Warren views the community of car culture, its relationship to the city, and an acknowledgment of its history.
TM: Car culture in Los Angeles has an inherently nostalgic feel contrasted by the wealth and extravagance of contemporary cars. How do you maintain this balance in your photographs?
CW: I try to focus on shooting with modified cars. Even though the automobile is constantly evolving, the modifications and unique style of a build have not changed much at all for decades! Lots of people who modify their cars here in Los Angeles are inspired by builds from the past. This brings back the nostalgic feeling to a modern automobile in my opinion.
As he investigates the antiquated versus modernizing dichotomy that is Los Angeles, Chaz maintains a simple elegance that entrances his viewers. He brings a balance through an aesthetic approach that transports his viewers to a modern fairytale of the city.
TM: Many of your works have a soft textured appearance. Can you explain not only how you achieve this but what led to making this stylistic choice part of your style?
CW: I believe most automotive photographers approach their photoshoots the exact opposite way that I do. I try to focus more on the whole picture, rather than the car itself. My style of editing is heavily inspired by the colorful look and style from magazines in the 80s! I typically try to minimize contrast and dehaze in Lightroom for the “dreamy look” that I achieve
Chaz Warren’s automotive photography is keeping the notion of ‘California Dreaming’ alive. Each photograph becomes an escape. Peering into the past, present, and future through the diverse vehicles he photographs, enhancing their essence through the scenes he sets, instilling us all with a longing for an old-fashioned sense of freedom.