Photographer Dieter Klein doesn’t seem to be an automobile aficionado or a gearhead of any kind. So what draws Klein to travel Europe and the United States, exploring the forests and deserts with a camera in hand, searching for vintage cars that have been parked for good and left to rot?
“More than an interest in the cars themselves, I was struck by the impact of this extraordinary process of transformation,” Klein tells Business Insider.
Dieter’s images of automobile graveyards, places where abandoned cars slowly decay, show both the staying power of these classic cruisers and the strength of the nature around it, engulfing the machines and returning them back to the earth.
His photos have recently been compiled into a book, titled “Forest Punk,” for sale now. Klein shared a selection of images and the stories behind them with us.
Klein discovered his unusual subject of choice by coincidence, he told Business Insider. He was on a trip to France when he happened upon an ageing pickup truck parked and left for years in some bushes.
'It was about 80 years old and had been standing there undisturbed for a good 40 years,' he said. 'By that time it had pretty well been reclaimed by nature.'
Klein says he wasn't much of a car person to be begin with, but the ruin piqued an interest. 'The contradiction of nature and this man-made machinery to be left alone for decades in such impressive scenery left a strange impression on me,' he said.
Upon arriving back home in Cologne, Klein began to do research on more automobile graveyards. His second trip was to a spot in a rural area of Belgium where around 250 cars had been parked for decades.
It was here that Klein arrived at the name 'Forest Punk.' 'Punk' has a different meaning in Germany than it does in the US, describing a sort of 'creature,' Klein said. He saw these cars as secret living things, hiding in the woods.
'The title is also similar to 'Forrest Gump' phonetically -- that's a little bit funny,' Klein added.
Klein said the the junkyard below, hidden in a tiny village in France, has been around for over 50 years and is a secret place to car enthusiasts.
It has over 500 cars and no information can be found about it online. Klein had to promise not to divulge its exact location.
This junkyard in Sweden is two miles from the Norwegian border. In the 1950s, Klein said, the cars were disassembled and smuggled, piece by piece, over the border to Norway, where the importation of whole cars was forbidden. They were then reassembled in the dead of night.
He started his trip at an auto auction in Oklahoma, at the site of a junkyard which had closed in 1953 and stood untouched for more than 60 years.
He plans to return to the States later in 2015 and has no plans to conclude his project any time soon.
Klein said he's most drawn to visions of these 'pioneers of mobility standing still at their final destination.'
While the cars have been there for decades, Klein said that soon nature will continue to decay them them until they are completely gone.
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