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Photographer Bill Pack Wants You to See Cars as Beautiful Art Forms

Portrait of artist Bill Peck
Photographer Bill Pack

Artist Bill Pack wants people to see cars differently. The former ad man has reframed his work and his camera’s lens, showcasing the contours of automobiles. “I aim to present cars not just as machines but also as art forms, bringing together two passionate worlds to appreciate the car as a work of art,” says Pack, who moved to Phoenix in 2022 to be at the epicenter of the car collector community. Using long exposures and a unique lighting technique, Pack takes a fine artist’s approach to provide a new perspective on these “metallic muses.”

We connected with Pack about how he gets each shot, what cars rev his engine and where his work will be on exhibition next.

A red Maserati photographed dramatically against a black background
A Maserati photographed by artist Bill Pack

You spent your career doing photography for advertising. What led you to focus on fine art photography—and photographing cars?

After two decades of creating images for the advertising world, the allure of a fresh creative path began to emerge. This journey into the realm of fine art photography, particularly focusing on automobiles, was not an overnight shift but a gradual, introspective evolution spanning several years.

The quest for a subject that could fully engage my artistic sensibilities led me to the automotive marvels of the 1950s and 1960s. It was the hypnotic beauty of their lines and curves that captivated me, urging me to delve deeper.

The challenge, however, lay in how to illuminate these metallic muses in a way that would not only highlight their aesthetic beauty but also evoke the emotions they stirred within me. Considering that a car essentially acts as a giant reflective surface, this task required extensive experimentation, lasting about a year.

My background in automotive advertising photography provided a foundation, but my vision was different this time. I sought a lighting technique that was not just effective but also versatile, allowing me to seamlessly transition between various emotional tones without extensive setup changes.

This pursuit of the perfect light to reveal the soul of these cars has been both a technical and artistic endeavor, marking my transition from the structured world of advertising to the expressive freedom of fine art photography.

Dramatic photo of the back of a Mercedes
Mercedes as seen through the lens of artist Bill Pack

Tell us about how you capture cars using your “painting with light” technique.

I discovered that “painting with light,” a lighting technique I refined for photographing cars, was the perfect solution. This method allows me to unveil the hidden beauty of these vehicles.

It requires me to work in total darkness, setting the stage for a unique creative process. I position my camera on a tripod, with the lens open for a duration that varies between 30 seconds to 10 minutes, depending on the effect I’m aiming to achieve.

The car is placed between me and the camera. With lights in hand, I paint in the illumination, treating the surrounding darkness as a black canvas.

This technique gives me the flexibility I was seeking and enables me to draw a wide range of emotions from the automotive design, transforming each car into a visual symphony of light and form.

Tell readers about your process.

Each day is a unique blend of creative activities. My routine typically involves either gearing up for a commissioned project or delving into the design elements with my creative team of our latest book project.

I often find myself amid a production shoot or deeply engaged in post-production work. Editing images for fine art projects is a regular task, as is collaborating closely with [our] printer to ensure my artistic vision is accurately translated.

Additionally, a significant part of my day is dedicated to conceptualizing future artworks. This diverse range of tasks ensures that every day is an exciting and fulfilling journey in my artistic career.

How do you go about selecting a car to photograph?

My preference in choosing cars to photograph naturally leans towards Italian sports cars from the 1950s and 1960s. I’m captivated by their elegant and beautiful designs.

Interestingly, many of these cars’ designs were influenced by designers who had family in the fashion industry. This connection is fascinating to me; it’s like the transition of fashion sensibilities from adorning the human figure to styling the automobiles.

This blend of automotive and fashion design heritage deeply resonates with me and influences my selection.

1955 John Zink Special by Bill Pack

Do you consider yourself a car guy?

Absolutely, I do consider myself a car enthusiast, but my journey into this world was primarily through the perspective of art and design, which is somewhat unique among automotive photographers.

This approach enables me to showcase cars to their owners in an innovative way, often revealing aspects they haven’t previously considered and deepening their appreciation for these familiar objects.

My approach also aims to reveal the sculptural artistry in cars to those who have a passion for art and design, essentially framing these vehicles as pieces of art in their own right.

In doing so, I aim to present cars not just as machines, but as art forms, bringing together two passionate worlds to appreciate the car as a piece of art.

What’s been one of your favorite cars to photograph? And to drive?

It’s quite a challenge to single out favorites, but I’ll take a stab at it. The race cars created by Maserati and Ferrari from the mid to late 1950s hold a special place for me. During that era, these brands collaborated with some of the world’s most exceptional designers, resulting in creations that I regard as masterpieces. Whenever I get the chance to work with these it’s an extraordinary experience. Their design and aesthetic are the epitome of perfection as represented by the 1956 Maserati 250F and the 1957 Ferrari 315 S Scaglietti Spyder.

The back perspective of a Ferrari by photographer Bill Pack

What are you working on now?

Currently, I’m engaged in developing a new collection book for a private collector, which is planned as a multi-year project due to the dynamic nature of their collection, with cars continually being added and removed.

Alongside this, I’m working on individual commissions for private collectors, creating fine art prints of their cars. Additionally, I am in the process of crafting my next fine art series, which I aim to release later this year.

Do you have other exhibitions coming up?

I am thrilled to share that my work will be showcased at the esteemed Royal Automobile Club in London. It’s an honor to have my art displayed at such a prestigious and renowned venue.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Late last year, I submitted my black and white series “CarScapes” to the prestigious international reFocus awards. I am thrilled to share that from thousands of entries across 77 countries, my series was awarded the top honor, securing first place overall, along with a gold in both the Minimalism and the Fine Art categories.

This recognition holds special significance for me, as it marks my work’s acknowledgment not just within automotive circles, but crucially, in the realm of fine art photography as well. My artistic journey has been driven by a singular vision – to establish myself as an artist whose muse is the automobile.

My ambition is to forge a deep connection with those who cherish art and design, presenting them with a distinctive perspective that elevates cars to the status of art. Furthermore, I strive to offer car owners a new viewpoint on their treasured vehicles, guiding them to re-explore and gain a renewed appreciation for what they already know and love.


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