Tag Archives: Cars

123 Images-Liberty Behind Bars and American

I wrote about these two images before, They were both taken on the same July 4th-Indepenence Day in the United States, a day for flag waving, fireworks, and politicians making speeches about freedom and Democracy with a capital “D”.

I shot this image four or five times over the course of a year, and was never satisfied with the results. Because it is inside a building, most attempts would give me enough shadow detail. I needed enough light coming in from the late afternoon Sun to illuminate it for me. But that same afternoon Sun created a ton of glare and reflection off of the window glass. On this day, I think I found the remedy to those problems by pressing the end of my lens directly on to the glass.

Liberty Behind Bars

Copyright 2016 Jimmy Reina













The irony (to me anyway) is that the photo was taken on July 4th and the tablet that Lady Liberty is holding is inscribed with the date of the American Declaration of Independence- July 4, 1776.

Liberty Behind Bars

Copyright 2016  Jimmy Reina


I got the shot, and as I drove away on San Pablo Avenue, I found this second situation. In order to get the whole image, I had to make a U turn and shoot from across the street. I am an old Alley Cat, and street life generally doesn’t faze me, so normally I would park and wait for a break in traffic so I could walk out into the street  and fill my viewfinder with the image. However, this corner is about as funky as can be, and the small grassy area where I had to park was filled with quite a cast of characters, most of them probably harmless, some of them probably homeless, but there were some bad dudes there (the City of Oakland has since closed it down by fencing it off). I took the easy way out, and just rolled down my window, and clicked off a few frames.


Copyright 2016  Jimmy Reina

Here’s the inside joke. Aside from the American Flag, the car is a Rambler American, something that may only be obvious to a 1960s motorhead like me.


Copyright 2016  Jimmy Reina

It has been said that the Statue of Liberty really is the symbol of the beacon of hope the United States represents to immigrants. There is a poem about this hope displayed there, the most famous lines from it are-

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

I have to say that “Liberty Behind Bars” seems to take on new meaning with the actions the Trump Administration took this week.









It is difficult to say why I love cars, but when I see one that I think it unique, emblematic, or just plain interesting, I feel I have to document it,

I was raised in the automobile business, so cars were our bread and butter, and because the family car was constantly changing, they had an quite an impact on our daily life. However, I also grew up during a one of the Golden Ages of the American automobile, and our cars went through puberty and adolescence with a Rock and Roll soundtrack just like we did

Until the early 1950s, the most of the cars were still kind of frumpy and without a lot of personality

Upon Jacks

but after the middle of that decade, their bodies started developing fins and bulges, decorative chromework and colorful paint jobs, including two tone.


Packard fender


Mercury two tone with fins

In 1954, Chevrolet introduced the Corvette, and in 1955, Ford gave us the Thunderbird. The 60s brought us the pony cars-Mustang, Cougar, Camero and Firebird along with the Muscle Cars, Barracuda, and GTO.


Barracuda V8

Gas was cheap, President Eisenhower created the Interstate Highway system, and the Nation wanted to get on the road.


We strived for expressions of our own individuality, and our cars reflected that goal.

It is said that Henry Ford once declared that the consumer could get a Model T in any color they desired, “As long as it is Black”, but by the end of the 60s, not only did we have color choices that rivaled a Baskin Robbins flavor list, but the car companies had product lines for each budget*, and within product lines there were several models to choose from, each with their own choices of budget, power train, and luxury.

I don’t recall if all of these existed at one time, but the Chevrolet product line was like the three bears, with full size (Biscayne, Bel Air and Impala), mid size (Chevelle, Malibu, and Malibu) and compact (Chevy II, Nova) models. They topped each of those sizes off with the “Super Sport”, offering more horsepower, bucket seats, and fancy trim packages.

They also made the rear engine drive Corvair and the mid size coupe/ pickup named the El Camino.

Cars didn’t last very long in those days (insuring job security for the industry). Manufacturing tolerances weren’t as tight, so moving parts wore out, and we were surprised if a car went 100,000 miles.

Also, the salt that Snow Belt cities used to melt Winter road ice, severely corroded body panels, and bodies often wore out before the engine did.

The rule of thumb was to buy a new car every three years, four at the most.

This is a great thing about California, the cars don’t rust out.

Every day, you can see really great cars not as precious objects that you dust off on Sunday, or show trophies that are kept in conditioned garages, but daily drivers that real people use to go shopping and to work. Most of the cars I am showing here are parked at the curb.

Every day, you can see the proverbial sedan driven by “a little old lady”, and they are still being driven by little old ladies, and you know they were young ladies when thay bought that Plymouth Valiant new in 1966.


There is another new market for these mid Century cars-for about 20 years, Hipsters have been buying them, and tooling around in them.

Last month, when president Obama declared the US was going to open up trade with Cuba, more than one pundit talked about buying up these cars and exporting them to Havana. The trouble is, there is still very little cash flowing in Cuba, and little if any support system for these cars. If you really want to cash in, bring your Aunt Ginny’s ’58 Pontiac Catalina to San Francisco and sell it on Craigslist!

I know guys who search for a ’55 Chevy because it was their first car, but all of this isn’t nostalgia for me- you can’t buy back your youth. For me, seeing one of these cars go by just strikes an internal chord. It lifts my spirits, but I don’t yearn for those days to come back, and I have no desire to relive anything symbolically.

I don’t have one of these cars, and don’t have any desire to (been there, done that).

Part of that jolt when I see these cars is knowing that, at one time, manufacturers had soul, and weren’t afraid to express it.

This is at least part of the genius of Steve Jobs-he had the moxie to put his ass on the line, and give us objects that were also art. My daughter’s Macbook does the same thing as my Toshiba laptop, but hers is considerably more stylish.

I like to think of myself as a photographer, but I know these are not great photos.

Many of them are grab shots I have taken while walking my dog or driving to work. Often the leash is tugging on the same wrist that is pressing the shutter. Often, the driver of the car behind me is blowing their horn, because I am stopped in the middle of the street, and they are trying to get to work as well.

In order to take some of the shots of this Buick, I was standing on the double Yellow line in the middle of a major street.


But it was fun to see them, and fun to shoot them.

And it is fun to share them.

*My brother and I once accompanied my Father in a doctor’s examination room, and upon hearing of my father’s career, the doctor was showing off for his nurse by reciting all of the General Motors lines- Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick, Cadillac.

Fiatus Fiatus


Fiatus Fiatus. Copyright 2014 Jimmy Reina

Fiatus Fiatus Copyright 2014   JImmy Reina

The Fiat automobile occupies a significant spot in my memory bank.

For most of my life, my Father worked in automobile sales. Like other businesses at the time, auto dealerships were not the big box megastores that we see today, they had a scale that fit the neighborhoods that they were in. If you wanted a television, you went to an appliance store, and you bought your lawnmower at the hardware store.

In the mid 1950s, the European small car trend started, with Volkswagen being the most visible. In St. Louis Mo., there was a midtown dealer that sold a few brands-they also sold the original Vespa scooter.

My Father, ever restless, and usually impetuous, decided to open a Fiat dealership. I am certain there was a backstory, there always was. (Somehow Franklin Roosevelt Jr. was in the picture-look it up), but my grandparents were Italian immigrants, and he tended to gravitate towards things “Eyetalian” (his word, not mine) anyway. If he needed a plumber, he would open the Yellow Pages, scroll down until he found a name that ended in a vowel, and that was how he made his choice.

That cute little Fiat “Cinquecento” that is so trendy right now was our family car, our daily driver. I believe it is the car my mother learned to drive in and used to take her driving test.

“Foreign Cars” seeped into our culture very, very slowly, especially in the conservative Midwest, and it was not yet the right time for a standalone, single product dealership. There weren’t big advertising budgets and splashy product announcements like there are now. Each year, you just saw a few more Renaults, Vauxhalls, and Saabs (we thought they were Finnish, but secretly made in Russia) on the road.

Obviously, the U.S. auto market was going in the opposite direction. Bigger was better, and the 1957, 58, and 59 American cars began a trend that said “Bigger and Better” than just about anybody else.

The Fiat dealership was a financial disaster, it took its toll on our whole family. For years afterward, my Grandfather would spit on any Fiat he saw-his expression of contempt for the symbol my father’s financial problem.

My father was dramatic, had a huge, varied vocabulary, and he loved wordplay and verbal gymnastics. Aside from speaking two languages, he made up quite a few words of his own. He often Latinized words, adding the “-us” suffix, so he referred to this brand as “Fiatus”, and one of his conversational dramatics was to repeat what he just said. I often heard him say “Fiatus Fiatus”, and with this phrase in mind, there could be no other title for this photo.

This one is for you, Pop.