John Wagner Documents 1930s-Bred Car-and-Motorcycle Culture at the Bonneville Salt Flats

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John Wagner's art-chronicling journeys have taken the Phoenix-based photographer to spots like Costa Rica, Spain, and Italy. However, there may not be any images in Wagner's portfolio that are as striking as his works captured one U.S. state away from Arizona.

Wagner's "SALT" series finds the shutterbug on location at the Bonneville Salt Flats for Speed Week. Located approximately 90 miles west of Salt Lake City, Utah, the au naturel landscape plays host each August to an annual competition that has, since the 1930s, pitted some of the fastest two- and four-wheeled beasts ever invented against each other.

Since Wagner's specialization is in static compositions rather than moving pictures, he based this series on the dust-settling moments before and after the races. Instead of using a hyper-fast (and super expensive) camera lens to capture the vehicles moving at stupid speeds, Wagner concentrated on combining the beauty of classic cruisers with the impossible desolation of Bonneville, a place renowned for hosting a number of land-speed records.

The project began as a one-and-done photo essay assignment for Men's File. But once Wagner saw the marriage of two of his favorite things -- car and motorcycle culture with photo opps -- he returned numerous times to complete this body of work.

He's done a fantastic job of doing so, thanks to a keen awareness of exposure compensations and color density that causes each image to pop like a hot rod leaping out of the starting gate.

Wagner's "SALT" opens tonight from 6 to 9 p.m. during a free First Friday artist's reception at After Hours Gallery, 116 West McDowell Road, Suite 120. The show hangs through January 31. For more info, mosey over to www.afterhoursgallery.com.

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