Arizona ArtBeat: Automotive Art

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Brenda Priddy is known as one of the world’s top automotive “spy” photographers, snapping photos of test vehicles before they are shown to the public. She’s turned her lens to photographing cars artistically. We’ll show you Priddy’s art photography, on display in Chandler, and talk to her about that and her work as an automotive spy photographer.

Ted Simons: In tonight's edition of Arizona Artbeat, we look at a local artist who proves that you don't have to be a car buff to appreciate the beauty of automobiles. Producer Christina Estes and photographer Juan Magana take us to an exhibit featuring automotive artifacts.

Christina Estes: Inside the Chandler center for the arts, you can almost hear the rubber hit the road.

Brenda Priddy: Older cars especially have so many unique characteristics.

Christina Estes: And Brenda Priddy has captured them. Her collection features shapes we rarely see.

Brenda Priddy: The hood ornaments they used years ago, they're not safe, especially for pedestrians in car accidents and such but the hood ornaments from years ago were just beautiful. They were stunning. I mean, they could be Pontiac uses a lot of native American Indians, which today probably want be politically correct but they're just beautiful hood ornaments, the script, the writing on so many of the old badges was elegant or modern, it fit the era.

Christina Estes: Priddy took most of these photos at car shows with thousands of people milling around.

Brenda Priddy: I might walk around a car and take 50 or 60 photos and then walk away for a few minutes and as the sky is changing, walk back and take another 50 or 60.

Christina Estes: This photo is titled calling Mr. Edsel.

Brenda Priddy: The steering wheel almost looks like it would be a push button phone but it's push buttons for the automatic shifting on the car.

Christina Estes: This one's called Studebaker, of course.

Brenda Priddy: And we named it that because people try to guess what it is and they never guess it on the first try or usually even on the second time. They start out with Corvette and they think what other vehicles are v8 but the script on top is the bottom of the writing for Studebaker.

Christina Estes: One wall features photos from a recent trip to Cuba.

Brenda Priddy: When they see somebody from America, the first thing they say is Detroit? Do you know Detroit?

Christina Estes: She quickly discovered how much pride they have in their rides.

Brenda Priddy: I was taking a picture of one car and this man came up to me and I couldn't communicate with him very well because he didn't speak English, he took me by the arm to his car and he had a daisy on his license plate and some flowers by the hood ornament and so I spent a lot of time taking pictures of that.

Christina Estes: With little to no access to replacement parts, Cubans must really care for their cars.

Brenda Priddy: They do whatever they can. So you might find a Chevy with a Japanese diesel engine in it but it's still a magnificent car and it might have 15 layers of paint.

Christina Estes: Priddy snapped 10,000 photos in Cuba expended up in a few herself.

Brenda Priddy: People were so pleased that I would choose their automobiles to take pictures of, you know. They would open the hood, they would have me sit inside, they would want to take pictures of me with my camera by their car. So it made them feel good, as well.

Ted Simons: Priddy is also well-known as an automotive "spy" photographer. Car-makers try to keep their prototypes under wraps, but Priddy has captured many images just outside the proving grounds in the middle of the desert. That's it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

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