Kristin Bedford can’t pinpoint the exact moment she first saw a lowrider. In Los Angeles, they’re everywhere. Driven close the ground, immaculately restored and creatively customised, with their distinctive rims and glistening candy paint jobs, these eye-catching classic cars are “part of the fabric of the city,” says the photographer, whose project and book, Cruise Night (2021/2024), provides a uniquely meditative and reverent take on lowriding culture amongst Mexican Americans in LA. Unlike other portrayals of the scene, which tend to highlight the style and swagger of young, male lowriders, Bedford’s presents lowriding as a community – multigenerational, female as well as male – and a fine art practice, alternating intimate portraits with close-up compositions of car bodies. Now, as the series goes on view at Galerie Catherine et André Hug, Paris, we catch up with Bedford as part of our 10 Questions With… series. The conversation touches on myriad inspirations, and she describes what it feels like to a take a picture.
A: Tell us about how you got into working behind the lens – where did it all begin?
KB: I started at the age of five when my father gave me a camera. My childhood was rooted in photography, so it is part of the foundation of who I am. I don’t have many memories before having a camera.
A: What’s the focus or message behind your latest exhibition at Galerie Hug?
KB: Galerie Hug’s exhibition is about exploring contemporary colour photography in the USA. My featured work is from the series Cruise Night, which is an intimate look at the Mexican American lowrider community in Los Angeles. Cruise Night is deeply personal and reflects my practice of making images filled with quietude. From this vantage point, I am offering a new narrative, one that rejects the stereotypes of lowriders as sinister and crude. Instead, I explore how the art of customising a lowrider car is a political, social and creative act of identity, in which the use of color is part of having a voice.
A: Do you have a favourite piece in the show?
KB: One photograph that stands out to me, Paula Sue, embodies a significant character in the series – Los Angeles light. The image is bathed in our afternoon light and there is a monochromatic glow. The tones mixed with the stillness in motion typifies my experience of the landscape and the lowrider movement.
A: Who – or what – are your biggest inspirations?
KB: Marie Curie, the Golden Hour, International Klein Blue, Malcolm X, the Pacific Ocean, The Freer Gallery of Art, Edward Hopper, film noir, Madeleine Vionnet, Art Deco, Federico Fellini, Oscar Graubner’s photo of Margaret Bourke-White atop a gargoyle on the 61st floor of the Chrysler Building, circa 1930.
A: What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
KB: The highlight is the confluence of many small moments. To make photos that move me and transcend my rationale – these are the amazing and rare instances that bring me the greatest joy.
A: Do you have a “signature” technique or approach? What is it?
KB: When you are in the ocean and surrounded by people playing nearby, there is lots of noise and motion. As soon as you put your head underwater, your reality becomes completely silent. Yet you are still near all of those same people. This is what the act of making photographs is like for me. I am in the world, and, concurrently, working in a space of deep and penetrating silence.
A: If you could do any other job, or be an expert in any other field, what would it be?
KB: Film director – I have many films inside me that I would love to realise.
A: Who are your favourite artists working right now?
KB: Alfonso Cuarón, Clifford Prince King, John Legend, perfumer Anne Flipo, Terrence Malick and Lizzo.
A: Is there anything you hope audiences take away from the show?
KB: All I can do is open a door with my photographs.
A: What are you working on right now? Anything for us to look forward to?
KB: My current photography project is about magic, women and Old Hollywood. I am exploring an overlooked and fascinating chapter of magic in the 20th century.
In 2021, my book Cruise Night sold out in four weeks in the USA. It was never reprinted. My contract with the publisher recently concluded and I have been working on publishing it independently. The books arrive in Los Angeles from Verona, Italy, January 2024. The new chapter of printing my book serendipitously starts with a new year. Pre-orders are now exclusively available from Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Cruise Night is at Galerie Catherine et André Hug, Paris, until 17 December | galeriehug.com
1. Kristin Bedford, Sunrise Pearl. Image courtesy the artist.
2. Kristin Bedford, Los Angeles. Image courtesy the artist.
3. Kristin Bedford, El Quetzal. Image courtesy the artist.
4. Kristin Bedford, Gypsy Rose. Image courtesy the artist.