Michael Furman has had the unique pleasure of photographing the world’s most significant cars. From the earliest “conveyances” to cars that foretell the future, Michael has created portraits that insightfully express his subject’s historical and aesthetic importance.
A key element to Michael’s style is to present the car from the perspective of the designers and engineers who created it; their thoughts, their motivations, and the social and political context in which they worked. His approach has been graciously embraced by major collectors, museums and concours events around the world.
For most photographers, studio car photography would be a daunting task. Automobiles are large, highly reflective objects that present a myriad of technical photographic issues – and countless opportunities for visual excitement. Throughout his many years, Michael has found limitless possibilities to relate the many facets of automotive experience to his audience, and most importantly, inspire the next generation of automotive enthusiasts to continue this appreciation and respect.
Throughout the course of this website, you will experience an inside look at the most intriguing assignments that comprise his 35 year career. So please, take your time and enjoy the journey.
As a young boy, Michael Furman first picked up a camera to photograph a 1963 Corvette Split Window Coupe. And thus began a life-long love affair with cars and cameras.
Michael studied photography at the prestigious Rochester Institute of Technology, earning a Fine Arts degree in 1974. Upon graduation, he opened his studio in his native Philadelphia, and built a successful business shooting still life assignments for major advertising and corporate clients. But it was a long-standing love of cars that led him to the challenge of shooting cars in the studio.
While shooting new cars for the major manufacturers, Michael was asked to shoot a number of vintage automobiles and motorcycles. He instantly became enamored with these elegant forms; this new path leading to his position as the most sought-after photographer of significant automobiles in the world.
Michael’s notoriety grew with the publication of his first book, Motorcars of the Classic Era. It was received with public and critical acclaim, leading to the immediate work on a companion title, Automobiles of the Chrome Age, 1946-1960. These photographic essays are unique to the publishing world in that they celebrate the beauty and history of the world’s most iconic cars in studio imagery. Speed, Style and Beauty, The Cars of the Ralph Lauren Collection proved to be a tremendously popular book as it was published in concert with the exhibition at the MFA, Boston in 2005.
Many books have followed with publisher Coachbuilt Press and collaborator Richard Adatto, including Delahaye Styling and Design, in August of 2006, and Curves of Steel, which was released in 2007 for the Phoenix Art Museum. Michael’s next release, The Art and Colour of General Motors, paid homage to the 100-year design history of GM in 2008.
Released in August 2009, The Spirit of Competition, presents the legendary collection of Dr. Frederick Simeone whose sports-racing cars include milestones in automotive competition history. The Art of Bugatti: Mullin Automotive Museum, is the first of three titles for Mr. Mullin’s museum. The second, French Curves, features Delahaye, Delage and Talbot-Lago, and the third book, Vitesse-Élégance: French Expression of Flight and Motion, features Voisin, Hispano-Suiza and other inter-war year French marques.
Major exhibitions have included Michael Furman at The Automotive Hall of Fame, Legendary Italian Automobiles at the Alden B. Dow Museum in Midland, Michigan and in 2011 The Ralph Lauren exhibit in Paris. Michael is a regular guest lecturer at art schools and professional gatherings across the United States. He has also been honored by American Photographer, Communication Arts and PhotoGraphis, Auto Aficionado, Automobile Quarterly, Automobile Magazine and The International Historic Motoring Awards.
Michael is a founding board member and former creative director of the Radnor Hunt Concours d’Elegance. He holds the same position at UCP Motor Cars Under the Stars, a benefit for United Cerebral Palsy of Philadelphia, which he helped found in 2004. Michael is a long-standing sponsor and supporter of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, The Quail: A Motorsports Gathering and Carmel-by-the-Sea events.
Michael’s fine art prints are available through the Winfield Gallery in Carmel, California.
Since I photographed my first car in the studio, I have been fascinated by the mascots and badges that have identified them. They appear as small sculptures or designs in themselves, and thus they are the subject of my recent book, Automotive Jewelry, Volume One; Mascots, Badges. A book like this had not been undertaken before – a visual reference of the great automotive “identifiers” since the late 1800s - unencumbered by the distractions of color, reflections and shapes that normally limit their presentation.
I learn so much about a topic when I tackle a project. In this case how the mascots and badges vary and mature over the years, reflective of design trends, safety regulations and material availability. The importance of the mascots – how they began as early branding forms and then became integrated into the overall design and presence of the car.
I also learned of the accessory ornament – those pieces that are placed on a car by its owner to represent his thoughts about himself and his car. The perfect topic for Volume Two!
In the summer of 2013 I was asked by Rob Myers, of RM Auctions, to participate in a unique auction that was to take place in New York at Sotheby’s world headquarters. Slated for November of 2013, the auction was entitled Art of the Automobile and would present to a much broader audience significant and beautiful cars of the past 100 years. What made the auction catalog unique was the effort that RM went to in order to live up to the expectations of the theme and the Sotheby’s audience. I am honored to have been chosen to photograph the entire project.
Because of the large number of cars and the limited time in which to complete the photography, all of the cars were gathered in one location, Auburn, Indiana. Thus we could shoot the cars in the most consistent and controlled environment.
The auction itself was very exciting and garnished broad exposure for RM, Sotheby’s and the great cars offered. World records were set on eleven different cars, a testament to the success of the auction.
“My first assignment that gave me access to major cars and collectors was a calendar series that I photographed for the German chemical company, Hoescht Celanese, over an eight-year period.
I worked with a wonderful art director who very much allowed me to put together a grouping of 12 cars that best expressed the theme for that year. This exposed me to Bugattis, Delahayes, pre-war Mercedes-Benz and Alfa Romeo, Auburns, Cords and of course, Duesenbergs. The iconic Buick Y-Job, Porsche 917 LH “Hippy Car” and a Ruxton were shot. In fact there was even GM’s solar-powered car, the Sunracer, a glimpse into future technology that was created in 1987.”
“By the early 2000s, I had shot quite a number of classic era cars (1925 – 1947) and approached publishers about doing a ‘photographic essay’ on the subject. The challenge was that this type of book had not yet been produced and it was a difficult task to convince a publisher to venture into uncharted waters. Fortunately, Harry Abrams, the New York art book publisher took the chance and Motorcars of the Classic Era went to press. It was closely followed by Automobiles of the Chrome Age and my book career was off and running.”
“It was my good fortune that I met Paul Russell in the mid-1990s. Paul’s reputation as a restorer is unmatched, and we worked together on a project that featured his company’s skill and experience in this field. That led to my photographing a few of the most iconic cars in the world: Ralph Lauren’s Bugatti Atlantic and his ‘Count Trossi’ Mercedes-Benz.
Mr. Lauren liked my work, and when the MFA, Boston scheduled an exhibition of his cars for the spring of 2005, I was asked to photograph the collection. The groundbreaking exhibit, 'Speed, Style and Beauty, the Cars of the Ralph Lauren Collection', is still talked about in collector car circles and the book is still in great demand. When Mr. Lauren reprised the exhibit at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs’ in Paris in 2011, I was asked to update the collection with the cars that we had not yet photographed.
These were both memorable experiences.”
"This project was special on many levels, the most significant of which was to work with the legendary Dr. Frederick Simeone. It was a true joy to photograph his extraordinary collection and to work closely with Fred on creating Spirit of Competition, the extensive title that catalogs his museum’s collection of significant sports-racing cars.
Fred is one of the great figures in the collector car world and, with his good friend Miles Collier, he has led the preservation movement that honors and respects the originality of historically important cars. We spent many, many hours together on this title, and it all went by too quickly. The lasting result is my admiration for the man, and my personal commitment to support his work.
Working with Fred was an eye-opening experience that I was honored to participate in.”
"I have been truly privileged to work with a number of fine authors on many book projects. None has proven more interesting and supportive than Richard Adatto. Richard has exposed me to the world of French design – a wonderful display that defines the word ‘elegance.’ It has been with Richard’s encouragement that I have made the acquaintance of many collectors who share this appreciation, but none of them any greater than Peter Mullin. Mr. Mullin has built a museum in Oxnard, California to present his important collection of French automobiles. Bugatti, Delahaye, Delage, Talbot-Lago, Hispano-Suiza and Voisin are just the tip of an iceberg that begins with some of the earliest attempts at motorized transport and continues to the current Bugatti Veyron.
We have produced three books for Mr. Mullin and it has been a great education in the art of coachbuilding and art deco design. Their beauty is truly profound."