Old Cars

Jun 28, 2010 by     1 Comment     Posted under: blog

burned bus

If you haven’t already started following @joereifer (a.k.a. Joe Reifer) he describes himself as,  “night photography of abandoned places, and neighborhood toy camera photos.” Simply stated, the images speak for themselves. I had the pleasure of interviewing Joe as I came across a recent blog about his photography. Close your eyes. What you do think of when you hear “abandon places” or “military ruins”? Perhaps the images might give you an idea.

“Burned Bus” is a burned school bus in a remote area of the Mojave National Preserve. There are some amazing mining ruins in Mojave from the early 20th century up through more recent times. The exposure length was 7 minutes, and the lighting on the bus was done during the exposure with a flashlight with a hard angle to bring out the texture. This trip was really rewarding because I also got to photograph joshua trees and mining ruins at night in the snow.

Joe, your photography is pretty unique in subject such as the broken down campers and cars in the junk yard. It’s an interesting perspective, do you mind explaining it?

I primarily shoot at night with a focus on abandoned places. The junkyard work is part of a larger fascination with the Southern California desert, primarily the Mojave. The desert is a great preserver of once gleaming artifacts. And I love old cars — they just don’t make ’em like they used to. (by the way, great line about cars Joe!)

What current projects are catching your interest?

Later this summer I’ll be featuring a new body of work from a really interesting historical location on my website. I’ve made two trips to the Mojave Preserve this year to photograph mining ruins.

I’m also gearing up to teach night photography workshops at an abandoned desert junkyard called Pearsonville with photographer Troy Paiva. The workshops feature 3 nights of shooting in an amazing location with hundreds of cars from the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. During the daytime we go over lighting techniques, post-processing, and do critiques.


Where has your work previously shown?

I’ve primarily shown in local San Francisco venues and small West Coast galleries. I enjoy printing, and the process of editing and sequencing for a show. That being said, I’m pretty selective about where I show — it has to be fun. For the last 5 years I’ve shown work at a unique venue called Lucky Ju Ju that is a combination pinball museum and art space.

What is that “Cougar” thinking (left image)?

This image is from one of the Pearsonville Night Photography Workshops. We had some amazing lenticular clouds one night that were almost thought-bubble or UFO shaped. During the 10 minute long exposure I added light to the car with a flashlight. The star trails in the sky are almost horizontal because the camera is facing South.

Any current shows you’re focusing on?

This spring I had a couple of pieces in a group show in San Francisco, and at a gallery in Oregon. I’m hoping to put a small show together this fall, but I’m still working on the details. Most of my energy goes into shooting and displaying images online. The most important part of photography for me is the adventure of going to interesting places. Photographing at night is a way to document these journeys with a touch of the surreal.

How are you evolving and keeping creativity fresh in order to keep up with the industry changes?

I’m always researching new locations, and look forward to photographing during every full moon. I frequently visit my local library to check out photography books, and I’m inspired by a wide range of film and literature. I’m not concerned about my work fitting into any trends or industry changes — these come and go. I have a strong drive to make work that excites me, and to keep learning and growing.


This image to the left is called” Zabriskie Point (haunted). Please explain!

Zabriskie Point is an often photographed location in Death Valley for a good reason — it’s a spectacular view. This 30 minute full moon exposure was taken last year on Halloween. The ghost figure was added at the time of the exposure with a white bedsheet and a flashlight. I’ve visited Death Valley 4 times in the last 6 years and can’t wait to go back — it’s a magical place.

Last but not least…

Joe is located in San Francisco and works primarily as a night photographer with an emphasis on abandoned places. His work features modern ruins, desert junkyards, and closed military bases. His favorite place to photograph is the desert under the full moon, with exposures typically ranging from 5 to 45 minutes. Joe has a strong background in traditional film photography, and a high level of technical expertise in digital imaging. He’s taught Photoshop classes at the Academy of Art University, and was an original beta-tester for Lightroom. Joe blogs regularly about night photography, and is in his 3rd year of co-teaching a popular series of workshops at a Mojave Desert junkyard.

1 Comment + Add Comment

  • Hi there, just stumbled on your site from digg. It’s not an article I would regularly read, but I loved your perspective on it. Thank you for creating a piece worth reading!

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