Just after college, Douglas Sonders traded his classic convertible sports car for some professional-level digital camera equipment gear to document a tour with a rock band. It’s a gamble that’s still paying off today.
From his days on a tour bus, Sonders’ award-winning career as a photographer and filmmaker now spans everything from celebrity magazine-cover portraits to industrial applications for virtual reality. But it was a new challenge to take a Volkswagen Arteon, the striking new flagship that goes on sale late this year, and apply his creativity. The results: a dramatic and beautiful photo series unveiled recently at the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles.
“I’ve never had a car company just toss me the keys to a pre-production car and give me carte blanche,” says Sonders. “The Volkswagen Arteon has a beautiful modern edge, from the shoulder lines to the grille, and I wanted to do it justice.”
Working with models Shelby Bay and Krislian Rodriguez, along with a Phase One XF IQ3 100MP camera, Sonders crafted a series of images with the Arteon as a central feature. The look was designed to evoke the early techno era of the 1980s and some of its influences in modern life, with sharp-angled slices of color and clothing playing off the Arteon’s curves. (The LED-lit room was also an inspiration for a certain moody superhero’s lab.)
“I loved this space, and thought the symmetry and drama of the ceiling with the dark background worked well,” Sonders said. “It’s important to capture a car’s essence. I develop an emotional attachment to my cars, and they each have a personality in their designs.”
The photos didn’t just hang statically. Visitors to the unveiling were able to try out an interactive augmented reality experience through an app Sonders and his company, eXpanded eXistence, developed. Each photograph would trigger a pre-programmed interactive 3D visuals that would emanate from a given print.
“All of it eventually ties back to how we look at the world. I love the idea of exploring different platforms and technologies to give viewers a unique perspective towards a concept. I loved being able to incorporate my love for photography, film, and augmented reality into one campaign,” he says.