When gazing upon Copenhagen-based photographer Nicolai Howalt‘s close-up photos of crashed cars in his series Car Crash Studies, it’s easy, at first glance, to mistake them for beautiful abstract photos or paintings. The reveal happens with Howalt’s photos of the cars’ interiors, and it becomes apparent that those lovely abstracts are in fact close-ups of the brutalized metal exteriors of crashed cars. Howalt’s abstracts, which were recently exhibited by Martin Asbaek Gallery at Paris Photo Los Angeles, are striking on their own but become haunting when the full story is realized, and especially when seen together with the photos of the cars’ interiors. Howalt has transformed the horrific result of unknown tragedies—what happened to any of the drivers or passengers remains a mystery—into beautiful pictures, but the work succeeds still in presenting a terrible occurrence in an effective way that doesn’t make us avert our eyes.
All photographs © Nicolai Howalt. Courtesy Martin Asbæk Gallery, Copenhagen.