WHEN DID YOUR PASSION FOR 1950’S CARS BEGIN?
When I was a young boy. Like most of my peers, I grew up with a strong input and influence from American culture. Television was only new back then and I would watch movies and tv-shows from overseas with excitement. Even comic books played their fair part, the big colourful cars of their main characters as much as the ones of movie stars. They were secured in my mind, igniting my imagination, evoking a sense of freedom and power.
There was also the music… Elvis Presley, American Graffiti, etc.
All of these things combined left me with a perfect and maybe a little surreal image of a far away land I would simply have to visit one day.
I dreamt and desired to see and drive those beautiful cars with their soft, sensual silhouettes. So as soon as I had the possibility, I took off for my first visit to the United States. It was a wonderful trip but it was also somewhat a small disappointment.
I went to America for the first time in 1982 and those cars I so longed to see simply weren’t around anymore, if not in museums and galleries dedicated to vintage vehicles.
Obviously I half expected this. What we would see of the United States on television in the 80’s was different compared to when I was a young boy. The shapes of the cars had become straighter and harder, they no longer had the winged curves I was so attracted to. The California highways and the Los Angeles boulevards were still wide and transmitting an immense sense of freedom, but my young boy’s dream of driving down them in a beautiful 50’s car was no longer achievable.
SO THEN WHAT?
Well, when you believe in your dreams, sooner or later, in one way or another, they will come true… and mine did about 25 years later as soon as I arrived (again for the first time in a new continent) in Cuba!
I couldn’t believe my eyes: Chevrolet, Buick, Ford and others, all models from the 1950’s. Real, loud and chromed. Some were adjusted and patched up a little roughly and let out a lot of smoke, but they functioned nevertheless.
It was as if time had waited, as if it had slowed down as much as possible to allow me to fulfil my dream. Along with the cars, objects, architecture and other traces of the 1950’s were visible everywhere, a little worn-out and consumed by the decades but perhaps for this reason, all the more fascinating.
I felt immediately attracted to what I saw, this country seemed suspended in a time limbo, so I started taking photographs. After seeing how the pictures turned out, I decided I would return to document further what has now become one of the most iconic aspects of Cuba.
SO ARE ALL THE PICTURES WE FIND IN THIS SERIES RECENT?
Some are from 2008 but most are from 2016, when I went back, eager to take more pictures, this time making sure I would capture the cars within the island’s architectural context.
I travelled from East to West, making sure to also photograph the people thanks to whom these vehicles still live and function.
It’s incredible how they get by with just a few tools and in not so favourable situations (on these streets, in car parks and inside old sheds) and still manage to make them work!
I think these cars represent a connection between the past, the present and the future. They’re not just a part of history, they are not just a memory. They are a present emotion capable of bringing back a part of life we had considered lost. They are something that goes far beyond computers, smartphones and all the alienating modern technology we have grown so used to.
Their winged sensual shapes that I mentioned before, along with their loud engines form in our imagination a free highway from the 1950’s, towards a timeless future.
Roberto Pietro Pezzolati