THE PHOTOGRAPHIC HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF CANADA

Chariots of Chrome - Classic America Cars of Cuba

Simon Bell

Simon Bell receives a gift book from Gerry LobanToronto Photographer Simon Bell began a lifelong fascination with images when he was given a box camera at six years of age. His business is in general photography with a small but important segment in 3D images.

He was first published in 1975 in National Geographic magazine. Simon's first stereo slide show was produced in 1987 on a trip to the Galapagos. The shots were taken with a pair of Canon AE1 cameras mounted on a bar. His 3D StereoJet images provided support for the Toronto Olympic bid. His images of bugs, lizards, etc. were published in a series of kids' books (subject of his September, 1997 presentation to the PHSC). One of the few true stereo images in a Toronto Star special was taken by Simon.

His stereo images used in this presentation were taken in Cuba while researching his forthcoming book, Chariots of Chrome (the book images are non-stereo). The images were taken with an RBT stereo camera made in Germany using two Ricoh 35mm bodies and Pentax lenses. Simon has experimented with digital camera stereo but it's hard to synchronize the current generation of cameras with their variations in response time. A selection of the images shown during his talk can be presently viewed on www.simonbellphotography.com with cyan/red anaglyphic glasses (he has a limited supply available free on request). The images featured in the talk used the traditional polarized viewing glasses. Simon noted the tendency for very slight ghosting in the polarized images.

Chariots of Chrome: The most common American cars seen in Cuba are Chevrolet, Buick and Dodge models dating up to about 1960 when the USA imposed an embargo on shipments to Cuba. Those still operating usually have kerosene tanks in the trunk complete with the distinct fumes this fuel releases. For some reason many of the cars sport a large chrome swan as an added hood ornament. Tourists are generally not permitted to ride in these cars; instead they are given access to modern day vehicles from Europe and Japan. The American vehicles are seen every where on the street, but Simon found it very hard to find owners of antique cars in really good condition.

There is still a severe shortage of cars in Cuba. Citizens uses buggies and bicycles for transportation. Many of the old American cars now have Hyundai engines and are used as taxis for the Cuban population. There is very little theft in Cuba - a response to the draconian laws and punishments. Cuba seems trapped in a time warp. Its citizens want to modernize, but not with the chaos experienced by Russia when it moved to a more western-style economy.

Joshua Tree in California Rocks in Joshua Tree Park Getty Center California Cactus Roof Garden on Getty Center

Simon followed his Chariots of Chrome show with a short series of slides taken in California's Joshua Tree Park. These slides won 3rd prize in a recent NSA contest. He augmented the slides with images of the Mission Inn, and Getty Center, points of interest during his visit to California. A selection of the slides is now on his web site.

Smile! Head up, Head Down Trapeze Duo A Fine Balance

Simon's encore presentation was a very recent selection of images of the High String trapeze act taken in Kew Gardens, Toronto.

Chariots of ChromeThe images on this page are all © Simon Bell. The slides were projected in stereo. A polaroid filter was used to capture a single screen image with a Nikon 990 digital camera and cleaned up in Photoshop. Hover over an image to see its title. Click on it to see a larger image in a separate window. Close the window to continue. Click on the Chariots of Chrome cover shot at the left to go to Simon Bell's web site.

Los Caros Viejos
1950s Buick
A Dodge beauty on the street
Chevy with a horse and cart in the background
Late 1940s
Inner Glow
Mechanic's Special
Merry Oldsmobile
Silver early 1950s Olds
The old and the really old
1950s Green Pontiac with swan on hood

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