Drive-By Photographer Takes Studio-Quality Street Portraits

April 9, 2013 | Andy Cush

Johnny Tergo is having his photographic cake and eating it, too. Using an elaborate setup in the back of a Chevy Silverado pickup truck, the photographer is able to quickly take street photos that have all the gloss and lighting of fine-tuned studio pieces.  The effect gives the everyday moments of Tergo’s native Los Angeles an exaggerated gravity, all high contrast and long shadows, and the reactions of the subjects to Tergo’s bizarre-looking rig (he also honks the horn to get their attention sometimes) only heighten the artifice.

Tergo’s methods are as ethically tricky as any street photographer’s–in the hands of a more critical photographer the work could be seen as a comment on the evolving nature of privacy–but he seems more interested in pure aesthetics. “What I’ve tried to do is bring the studio lighting aspect to everyday real life on the streets,” he told Wired, admitting that “A lot of people think [he is] up to something nefarious.”

Look at a few highlights in the gallery.