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The car that jumps highest is the winner – the origins of lowriding in America can be traced back to the 1940s. Photographer Nathaniel Tetsuro Paolinelli spent time documenting the lowrider scene in New Mexico. His “personal works” speak expressively about life and the people in his hometown of Albuquerque.

LFI: Who are the lowriders and what fascinates you about them?
Nathaniel Tetsuro Paolinelli:
Lowriding traces its roots as far back as the 1940s in America. The culture of car customization in New Mexico is strong. These cars are works of art and the pride and joy of their owners. When I see one coming down the street it catches my eye from blocks away. The cars are amazing, but what I’m really attracted to is the people who drive them.

Your photographs seem like well-crafted stagings, nothing seems to be left to chance…
These may seem well crafted, but I’m just taking photos as I move throughout the city. The subjects are aware of my presence. I like to be a part of what is going on and take my photos from the inside instead of from the prospective of an onlooker.

Your images are bursting with power and expressiveness: in the colours, in the light, even in the black-and-white shots. How do you achieve this expressiveness?
I’m always looking for the little moments in a scene, and if I manage to capture one my next step in the process is my edit. Editing my photos is half of the satisfaction for me in the whole process of making the picture. I edit using Lightroom. I don’t use any special or extra presets, just the ones already included.

You used the Leica Q2. How was your experience with the camera?
For me the Leica Q2 is a camera that changed the way I make photos. It drew me closer to my subjects in a way I could never quite do before I got it. It’s so small and unassuming-looking that people hardly notice it, and when they do they’re not offended. I carry my Leica Q2 every day and take it everywhere I go.

You took all the pictures in 2021, during the time of the global pandemic; yet they seem to reflect “normal life”…
I spent over a year without taking photos and it was slowly killing me. After getting my second vaccination and purchasing my Leica Q2, I decided to get out of the house and started taking photos of people in my hometown. Being out on the street taking photos made me feel almost “normal” for the first time in a long while. By summer, people in my city started to slowly come out, and after being dormant for so long I had to be there with my camera to document it. (Interview: Katja Hübner)

All images on this page: © Nathaniel Tetsuro Paolinelli
Equipment: Leica Q2, Summilux 28 f/1.7
© Nathaniel Tetsuro Paolinelli

Nathaniel Tetsuro Paolinelli

Nathaniel Tetsuro Paolinelli is a Japanese/Italian photographer living in New Mexico in the south-western United States. He documents the people in his hometown of Albuquerque. His work is in the permanent collection of the Albuquerque Museum of History and Science.

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