By Bill Lowenburg Published by Back Street Books
September 4 - October 25 2009
The Banana Factory, Bethlehem, PA
Gallery Talk Friday October 2, 7:00 p.m.
Some crash for money.
Some crash for love.
Some crash to feel what it’s like to survive.
Crash Burn Love: Demolition Derby Photographs is the first book to detail both the public and private side of a wildly popular yet little understood American sport. Beginning in the late 1950’s, today an estimated one million fans attend the 1500 to 2500 or more demolition derbies held around the United States each year. Variations on the sport have become popular in England, Europe and Australia, where it is known as "banger racing." The Internet has also contributed to the sport’s worldwide growth by providing a forum for competitors and fans.
To the uninitiated, demolition derby might appear to be nothing more than a violent spectacle of destruction. But Bill Lowenburg’s black and white photographs and writing tell the broader story of the participants and their fans, showing the sport as a form of mechanized folk art and play for working class and rural Americans.
Using a medium format camera and flash, Bill Lowenburg explores the gritty world of demolition derby with a questioning as well as an understanding eye. Besides capturing the excitement of competition in the arena, he also takes the viewer behind the scenes of this previously undocumented sport, showing the intense activity in the pit, backyard preparation of cars, and portraits of competitors and fans.
Not surprising for a former history teacher, Lowenburg associates demolition derby with bygone times, when friends and families combined socializing with physical and mechanical work. Lowenburg’s subjects work hard and play hard, and find a way to have fun at both. In an age of made-for-media heroes, Lowenburg recognizes the genuine importance of a close-to-home quest for local recognition among family, friends, and acquaintances. As one oil and mud splattered competitor told Lowenburg, "This ain’t no hobby, it’s a way of life."
Crash Burn Love will be of interest to demolition derby competitors and fans, photography enthusiasts, and anyone interested in American history and culture.
"Lowenburg’s work truly shines with passion and empathic glee when all rules are suspended and automotive bedlam sets in. The smoke, the clank, and the chain, the improbable solutions, the demonstrative inventors, men and occasionally women, wielding sledge hammer and torch, work against possibility, and the result is always that the beast with many names is still running."
From the foreword by Larry Fink
©2005 Bill Lowenburg
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