Single Shot Stories No. 007 – Chris Lonardo, Car Fire in Dumbo

Single Shot Stories No. 007 – Chris Lonardo, Car Fire in Dumbo

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There’s a spot in DUMBO that’s become an iconic location to capture the Manhattan Bridge. I’ve lived in New York for the entirety of my adult life, and until just recently I’d never been there. If nothing else, I can now say that photography gets me out of the house to enjoy the occasional car fire.

I was meeting a photography friend, Ariel, and his wife Lia for the first time in DUMBO. They arrived just as golden hour was beginning, cameras in hand. Thirty or so other photographers, some with accompanying models, were there taking photos on this lovely summer evening. The street is mostly not passable to traffic due to pedestrian traffic, but there was an ice cream truck, and locals’ cars were parked along the street.

DUMBO has become a cool and expensive place to be in recent years, and those waterfront condos are all quite pricey. In front of one of these buildings on the blocks, as soon as Ariel and Lia arrive, a gray BMW M5 (E39) started smoking. At first it was a little, and then it was a lot.

This was shortly before the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and as someone who grew up close enough to where it happened that kids at my school lost parents, I’m probably still traumatized. I assume the smoking M5 is about to explode. I basically shout at Ariel to run, as I turn tail and flee.

Anyway, it didn’t explode, it just burst into flames. Must have been some kind of electrical problem. The owner eventually showed up and was quite shocked- it was a nice older BMW until, you know, it spontaneously combusted. But right after the fire kicks into high gear, the hipsters and Instagram models had mostly scattered, and I’m there with some of the finest photographic tools available in my hand- a Leica SL2 with a Summilux-SL 50mm F/1.4, in beautiful light, free to capture the response unfold as I please.

I got some banger shots of the car burning, the terrified crowd, and firefighters responding, and the owner’s face. One of my great sadnesses is that there’s not a real venue for people to see photos like this- how much editing is really worth it to make these documentary photos of a singular event shine, then they’ll just be seen on a phone by a few hundred of my followers? It depends how much time I can find before the next singular event happens. New York is paradise for street photographers, because the chaos never ends.

But to encapsulate the surreality of the situation in my Single Shot Story, I chose this murky- you may say corrupted- version of the iconic view. You know something’s wrong right away, but you’re not sure what.

I’m glad that the owner cheaped out on his stereo install or whatever and lost his car on the altar of my creative journey. Nothing lasts and we must embrace the fluency of the ephemeral. Sorry about your car, bro, that sucks.

BONUS SHOTS!

[Chris Lonardo is a photographer in New York City. Many thanks to Chris for his contribution to Single Shot Stories! ]


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  1. Along with the image sent to us via email, include in the same email the camera, lens and film (if applicable) which were used to take the photo, and location where the photo was made.
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10 comments
  • This hurts. An E39 M5 on fire. What a loss.

  • Um… “Single Shot”?

    • Yeah, I know, I know. Are the bonus shots something we should be strict about? Love to hear some feedback on it.

      • Gonna sound like a poo-poo’r here, but if it’s called “Single Shot,” it should be one shot only, imo. The primary shot on this entry doesn’t even tell the story. There’s no car on fire, and dark matter (smoke) obstructs an otherwise cliché BB photo from DUMBO. If I wasn’t explicitly told that a car was on fire, I wouldn’t have known from the first photo.

        Just hatin’ on a Monday morning. Looking forward to more of these.

      • About the single frame idea. This happened to me.
        In 1988, I attended Veteran’s Day services at the Viet Nam Veterans Memorial. I accompanied a local Viet Nam vets organization from my area. I had been photographing them since 1985, and it was their first trip to the Wall.
        I was with one of our local vets as we crossed the Mall. A group of 13 bikers, all Marine Corp Viet Nam vets, just dismounted and were securing their bikes.
        I asked them if I could take a photo of them. Their leader said yeah, just one photo. I was using a F3 w/a motor drive. I composed the shot, switched the frame selector to single shot, took the photo. I sent out 13 copies of b&w prints. Got a call at 2 am just after Thanksgiving that year. It was Jack, the prez. of the club. He thanked me for the prints, offered to reimburse me for the cost of mailing out the prints. I refused. My wife grumbled something, rolled over and took all the covers. Jack thanked me for listening to him and just taking one photo. I said that I could have fired off a burst and he wouldn’t know. Silence. Then he said ‘son, we’re all former Marines, we know the difference between a single sound and a burst…’ He then continued by saying a news photographer in their area didn’t listen and made a few photos. I asked what happened. “We kicked the sh*t out of his cameras.’
        I’ll say stick to one frame.
        [BTW, a true story. Jack (not his real name) was one of the Marine Corps top five snipers in Viet Nam. He later quit the MC and became a Pentecostal
        minister.]

  • Yess should be: to be fair!
    And maybe film pictures because we see this is digital image.
    I try to imagine this image with TriX, should be better.
    So to answer your question James, yess, one shot is one shot, and film shot for me is more in the way of this website, If I want to see shot of Sony R IV, 9, SL2, and so on I can go to Philipp Reeve, I think this is the name, but why I come here because this is film. Last time Sroyon takes the courageous risk to introduce the Pogo, but when we read it is very full of many ideas, lessons, it is really the spirit of Casuaphotophile, after this risk we have a digital shot of an M3 one of my previous car (M3 Alpine) and bonus. Or you can also change One Shot and 3 Bonus “bingo”. Despite these images are pretty good, they have for me : this too clean digital finish, so I don’t like. I really don’t like digital which I use, but I don’t like. For me this is like writing message in a mobile phone, I prefer my computer.
    But this is only my little opinion, you ask so I give you, if you don’t ask, I will don’t give, as you can see I have not commented this image sine you ask this question. 😉 I just return to see the comments 😉

  • Agreed: Without the title, it is not clear what is going on. First two bonus pics are far more « descriptive » but not « artistic » The chosen image looks like a carbon print and works on its own with a different story and title – « Brooklyn Bridge with smoke »

    Nothing against digital, consider requiring the ISO and the image format [jpeg, dng …]

    Not to be too ocd: there are 524 words [Apple pages] in 7 paragraphs. ¿Limit ? The second-to-last paragraph [but to…] is superfluous [trim to just under 500].

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Guest Author

In addition to our staff writers, we accept articles from passionate and knowledgeable photo people. If you have an article idea that you'd like to publish on Casual Photophile, please submit it to our email address for articles - [email protected]

All stories by:Guest Author