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Vintage Muscle Cars Take Flight in an Homage to Chase Scenes


Photographer Matthew Porter sends muscle cars flying in his new book The Heights.

Porter was inspired by classic car-chase films of the 1970s, ’80s, and so on.

The films often featured a car jump in which all four wheels leave the ground—an image that stuck with Porter.

Porter browses model-car websites, looking for die-cast replicas of vintage Pontiacs, Camaros, and other sports cars to make his images.

“Your mind is like this archive of images and pictures,” Porter says, “and only the most vivid, most spectacular survive.”

Scenes of cars flying down city streets in movies are typically costly and difficult to produce, involving everything from gas-driven catapults to CGI.

Porter wondered if there was an easier way to re-create those shots than the way Hollywood does it.

In 2005, at his kitchen table in Brooklyn, Porter strung up a toy Mustang, illuminated it with desk lights, and photographed it.

By combining that image with a deserted street scene, he produced the illusion of a car-jump stunt straight out of Starsky & Hutch.

Fifteen years after making his first image, Porter’s still at it. He has collected about 30 die-cast replicas of vintage cars for his photographs over the years.

“When you see cars from that era in front of you, it’s as if a spaceship landed at your feet—it’s hard to comprehend that they’re from the same timeline as ours,” Porter says. “Most of them were designed to do one thing—go fast in a straight line, which, when compared to their smaller, sporty European counterparts of the time, seems very American.”

Porter’s process remains roughly the same, though now he hangs the cars using a fancy mechanical arm that attaches to the top of his tripod. He lights the cars with strobes and colored filters and shoots the backgrounds with a large format camera in cities like New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

“There’s just nothing more visceral than a car in the air,” he says. “It’s aspirational and romantic.”

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