About a year ago while looking in my rearview mirror in heavy traffic I became very interested in the comings and goings of the cars behind me. The scenes unfolded like little vignettes of humanity. People laughing, arguing, crying, but mostly just looking bored or trapped within their own heads as well as the glass and metal box they confine themselves to in their daily commutes to work. I immediately thought of this picture taken by my father of my mom and me within the frame of our VW bug windshield. This picture and the frames appearing in my rearview mirror became the basis of my latest photography project.

It was a little tricky figuring out how I was going to achieve what I had envisioned but I would ultimately mount a digital camera in my rear window and use a remote cable to trigger the shutter. It took awhile to get the focus and exposure down correctly. Because I couldn’t use autofocus I needed to zone focus so that everything from about 10 – 16 feet would be reasonable sharp. When I got the technique down I still wasn’t satisfied with my results because of the fact that people were recognizing the camera fairly easily and were suspicious . There is a long history of documenting people without them noticing, Walker Evans subway series for one. Bernarda Bryson Shahn told me that when her husband, the artist Ben Shahn was documenting for the WPA he had a right angle mirror attachment on his lens and she would pose for him while he was actually shooting his subjects perpendicular to the direction he appeared to be shooting. I solved this problem by buying a small stuffed bird, ripping out the stuffing and cutting a hole for the lens. I mounted this “bird cam” behind my backseat. It is now almost impossible to figure out what I’m doing and the pictures suddenly became what I had seen on the day that I conceived of the idea.

I spend 3 1/2 to 4 hours a day commuting in my car. I have found a way to work on a photography project without much demand on my time. These are the kinds of pictures I have always taken anyway except now I am within the confines of my car taking photographs of my subjects within the confines of theirs.