Can cars create art? Volvo creates first gallery shot entirely on a car camera

Why it matters to you

The stunt from Volvo supports the idea that who’s behind the camera matters more than what kind of camera actually took the shot.

Cameras give cars a pair of eyes for tasks like accident prevention and hands-free parallel parking — but can those same cameras handle not the technical tasks, but the artistic ones? That’s what Volvo asked when they put three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Barbara Davidson behind the wheel of the built-in camera system on the Volvo XC60. The result? The world’s first professional gallery of images shot entirely with a car camera.

The gallery, called Moments, was created entirely using the SUV’s built-in camera — and what appears to be some adaptations to get the system designed to monitor the surroundings to actually save those recordings. The images were then pulled from the resulting video from the car camera and edited into black-and-white shots.

The XC60 isn’t a self-driving car, but the camera system is trained to recognize pedestrians, cyclists, other cars and even some animals, using the data for an autonomous braking system. The way the camera’s software identifies potential traffic hazards is left intact in the photo gallery, with the boxes around people and cyclists remaining in the frame.

“I’m really using the car as a camera,” Davidson said, “and I’m framing it as I would frame with my 35mm camera — so it’s really similar to how I would work as a photojournalist.”

While the images were obviously taken with a car camera designed more for technical applications than artistic ones, Davidson directed the shots with art in mind, creating scenes based on light and composition.

“At the end of the day, it’s about good storytelling — it’s about connecting to the people that are looking at the work,” she said. “But through art, we are connecting them through really important technology that saves lives, and I think we are bringing the technical world and the artistic world together.”

Photographers probably won’t be ditching their cameras for Volvos — just imagine how big the studio would have to be. But, the gallery easily slides in with projects like the Pro Photographer, Cheap Camera Challenge that argue that a good photograph relies more on who’s behind the camera than which camera was actually used.

After launching in London earlier this month, the Moments exhibition is expected pop up in studios around the world. Volvo is also expected to record and live-stream this summer’s solar eclipse with a fleet of XC60s.

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