David Fulton Howard

Interview by Kat Tang

Kathleen Tang: Hi David, can you introduce me to your project?

David Fulton Howard: Sure, so my project is my senior thesis and it’s about car enthusiasts, mainly because I am one myself! I also wanted to document the subculture of car enthusiasts through photos and captions. It’s essentially an ethnographic study of these people and their cars.

KT: Tell me a bit more about the way you took these photos. What type of camera did you use and how did you decide on the composition?

DFH: I used a Mamiya 6×6 C330 propped up on a tripod to take my shots. I took three types of shots: one of the car with the enthusiast, a detailed shot of the car, and then a picture of the engine. The reason why the enthusiast and the car are together is because it’s natural for a car enthusiast to want to show off their car – after all they want to be next to what they spent their sweat blood and tears on.

KT: Can you explain to me what your vision for this project was? And perhaps how that vision changed as the project went on.

DFH: So at first I was interested in the visual aspect of the project. However, as the project went on it became more conceptual and ethnographic. There are things I would want to tweak or work more on with this project in the future though. For instance there are female car enthusiasts, but none of them are depicted in my project. Also there is a lack of Hondas. So I guess I would go for more breath of cars and types of people.

KT: So for your final presentation of the project, why is there both a large grid format and a book format?

DFH: Actually, the grid is there to draw attention to the book. However, the grid did end up creating a different aspect to the project mostly because it is of slightly higher quality than the book and also it is much more visually striking on the wall. But originally the idea was once people see the grid and examine it they would then look at the book right underneath and read through the captions to get the full experience.

KT: What exactly is in the captions?

DFH: They answer some questions like, why you like cars, what have you’ve done to your car to modify it, etc. Captions can be 2 lines long or sometimes they end up being a page long. I mostly left it up to the person to send me information about their car. I just edited their blurbs for grammar and spelling.

KT: How long did this project take you?

DFH: Several months. Well, each shoot was an hour. I also edited 3 pictures per shoot at a very high resolution. Of course, setting up the shot, driving over to peoples’ houses took up the most amount of time. I ended up spending a lot of quality time with my own car that way.

KT: What do you want people to get out of your project?

DFH: Ultimately I think it depends on the person. Those who don’t know a lot about cars will hopefully get a glimpse into the world of the car enthusiasts and maybe they’ll think some cars look pretty cool. Those who are very knowledgeable about cars will hopefully get very excited when they see how awesome some of these cars are!

KT: What was your favorite car out of the series?

DFH: Well one of the coolest cars was this 1986 BMW where this guy swapped his engine with the engine of an M3 1999 model. To connect the wiring he had to build a special harness. It was a very technically cool car that wasn’t as flashy as some of the other cars, but I personally liked it a lot.

KT: Great, just one last question then, what would be some advice that you would want to give to anyone who’s pursuing a VES thesis?

DFH: Well, I guess the biggest thing is to have a strong project idea. Make sure to run it by some people, but if it’s a strong enough idea it’ll carry itself. You’ll just be along for the ride working on it after that. Oh and of course like people say, don’t leave things to the end to do them!


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