Exotic cars drive this photo graduate
Nov. 22, 2010
by Kathy Lindsley
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When Michael Furman was about 12 years old, he saw an orange, 1963 split-window Corvette roll down the street.
“We all reached for cameras,” says Furman ’74 (photography).
That was 45 years ago. Today, Furman is world-renowned for his photos of classic automobiles.
In collaboration with leading museums and collectors, he has produced nine high-end books, which he describes as “photographic essays on cars.” Titles include Speed, Style and Beauty, the Cars of the Ralph Lauren Collection, produced for a 2005 exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Curves of Steel, for a 2007 exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum; The Art and Colour of General Motors, celebrating the company’s centennial in 2008; and most recently, The Art of Bugatti: Mullin Automotive Museum, released in conjunction with the 2010 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the prestigious annual classic car event.
Noted car collector Jay Leno, who has interviewed Furman several times, calls him “one of the great, great automotive photographers.”
Furman creates his gorgeous, meticulous images using still-life techniques he began to develop at RIT. Initially, he was interested in photojournalism. But, in what he calls “one of the landmark moments of my life,” a professor steered him away from photojournalism. Furman turned his efforts to fine art and commercial photography.
After graduation, Furman lived briefly in New York City with friends before returning home to Philadelphia. But he continued to use a New York phone number, which he believes carried some weight with potential clients. He began to get some assignments, and his career took off.
“Back then, art directors were interested in looking for new talent. They were willing to take risks,” he says. “I was very, very lucky.”
Furman has shot the gamut of subjects for a wide variety of clients. The automotive specialty began with a small assignment for Mercedes-Benz. Since then, he’s worked for Jaguar, BMW North America and many others.
Furman’s goal is to “capture the essence of these amazing vehicles. Truth is beauty and elegance is simple beauty.” Although he’s photographed hundreds of exotic cars from the world’s foremost collections, his enthusiasm remains strong. “I can think of dozens of cars I would like to photograph,” he says. “I’m not going to live long enough to accomplish everything on my list.”