Air Drive

Against backgrounds of mid-20th century architecture, Renaud Marion photographed iconic cars, manipulated into levitating machines and trasformed into airborne transport.

Renaud Marion, <i>Air Drive</i>
Taking cues from his childhood imaginings and inspired by science fiction films and artists, Renaud Marion depicts his vision of futuristic transportation of wheel-less cars serenely suspended above the ground.
Renaud Marion, <i>Air Drive</i>
Renaud Marion, Air Drive. In apertura: Chevrolet El Camino. Sopra: Aston Martin DB5
But he has included a neat twist: while the vehicles’ levitation most definitely smacks of sci-fi, the cars are in fact modified vintage classics, including Chevrolets, Mercedes, Jaguars, Aston Martins and Porsches.
Renaud Marion, <i>Air Drive</i>
Renaud Marion, Air Drive. Mercedes 300SL Roadster

The images that emerge are a throwback blend of retro style with futuristic imaginings. Iconic cars from the glory days of automobile production are transformed into airborne transport, catapulting their vintage design into a visionary age. The pictures are really quite surreal.

Growing up in the 1980s, Marion thought that by the year 2000 everyone would be piloting flying cars, like the landspeeder from Star Wars or the futuristic soaring machines from French artist, Moebius. Marion’s dream of one day propelling a floating vehicle has not yet become reality but in this series, the 39-year-old has brought to life the ‘hover’ vehicles of his childhood fantasies.

Renaud Marion, <i>Air Drive</i>
Renaud Marion, Air Drive. Jaguar Type E

“As a child, I imagined the new millennium with flying cars, spaceships, parallel worlds, extra-terrestrials living with us on earth and time travel,” says the photographer. “We would have all been dressed up in space outfits and equipped with laser pistols. These are the dreams of a normal child, I think… I hope.”

Motivated by the idea that “our dreams of today are the reality of tomorrow,” and his quest to create the flying cars of his boyhood imagination, Marion developed the unique concept for his Air Drive series. At the end of 2012 in Geneva, the Frenchman shot the first automobile images that he would later manipulate into levitating machines.

Renaud Marion, <i>Air Drive</i>
Renaud Marion, Air Drive. Jaguar XK 120

Capturing the idea in his head of what constitutes a “flying car” and making it palpable required a two-step “manufacturing” process. The first step involved finding the subjects of the shoot and identifying the locations; the second involved the equipment.

“For the first part of the series photographed in Geneva, I chose the cars simply by walking down the street. I looked for cars parked on the side of the road as I wanted to use real size models instead of miniatures,” he says.

Renaud Marion, <i>Air Drive</i>
Renaud Marion, Air Drive. Lincoln Continental

Marion chose to shoot classic automobiles because they most closely resembled his childhood idea of what a flying car should look like. The first vehicles he photographed included a Chevrolet El Camino, Mercedes 300 SL Roadster and Jaguar XK120.

Finding the appropriate environment in which to shoot the autos meant seeking out spaces devoid of people and recognizable buildings. The venerable cars take centre stage against backgrounds of mid-20th century architecture in varying textures and muted or neutral colours.

Renaud Marion, <i>Air Drive</i>
Renaud Marion, Air Drive. Mercedes 190

“I looked for architecture dating from the 1970s; for me that’s retro-futuristic. The buildings had to be imposing, massive and graphic.”

To achieve the look of “flying” cars, Marion had to apply a digital assembly technique to remove the tyres and wheel wells from the classic beauties and merge the cars onto different backgrounds, eventually settling on the right scene for each futuristic portrayal.

Renaud Marion, <i>Air Drive</i>
Renaud Marion, Air Drive. Mercedes 300SL Paul O' Shea

These photographic anachronisms garnered a lot of attention when the imaginative artist initially posted them online. Classic car lovers, science fiction fans and photo and art admirers were suddenly followers of Renaud Marion.

This newfound recognition allowed Marion access to car collectors, some of whom lent their prized possessions to the photographer for his Air Drive follow-up shoot in Paris. These included a Mercedes 300SL Paul O’Shea, Lincoln Continental, Jaguar Type E, Mercedes 190SL, Aston Martin DB5 and a Porsche 356.

Renaud Marion, <i>Air Drive</i>
Renaud Marion, Air Drive. Porsche 356

Marion not only borrowed cars but cameras as well: Leica Camera loaned him their latest Leica S to capture stills of the vintage automobiles.

“What if it were true that in their time, Jules Verne or Leonardo da Vinci had unconsciously created universes to condition humans for an unpredictable future, one they could never imagine?” asks Marion. “It might be the same as today. Science fiction is everywhere. Is it here to prepare us to fly in spaceships, to meet people with powers or simply to drive flying cars?”

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