The Art Of The Car Ornament: An Interview With Photographer Greg Murray

The Art Of The Car Ornament: An Interview With Photographer Greg Murray
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I met Greg a few years ago and have always admired the beauty of his photography.  His images of car ornaments are intellectual, classic, and timeless. They capture the art of the hood ornament from custom designs to art deco lines.  They are beautiful separate and apart from the cars they are attached to yet are symbolic of the design of the car overall.  Greg’s images convey the strength and charm of these works of art.  His images are modern yet record these masterpieces of design showing them as individual works with a history of their own.


Greg Murray

What path led you to becoming a photographer?

When I was a child I liked taking photos with the camera my parents had. It was always fascinating to me to see the photos after they were developed. To see how they showed people or places or things just as they were when you took the photograph but that they also didn’t look the same as what you saw when you took the photograph. More importantly to me they didn’t feel the same as when you took the photograph.

Did you always want to be a photographer?

No. I always wanted to be a circus performer but my mother wouldn’t let me join!! Yeah, I can be a joker.


You specialize in iconic car photography and photographing hood ornaments. How did you develop this area of specialization?

I’ve been interested in cars for about as long as I can remember.

Starting at about 13-14 years old some of my friends and I would try to identify a car coming down the street from as far away as possible. The headlight treatment and the bumpers usually were enough to know the make and any other additional information could get you to the model.  So naturally photographing cars was an interest for me. The way I photograph cars developed over time from the whole car to parts of the car. I moved to taking “detail” photos of cars. All the small things that make up a car interest me.  Badges, lights, bumpers and of course hood ornaments.

The hood ornament photography developed with the detail shots I was taking and they became the ones I pursued the most. It’s like being able to photograph the car’s heritage, identity and personality, if you will, with one photograph.

Note: I am about the worst auto mechanic you could imagine.


What is it that attracts you to car photography?

The recording with photographs the “personalities” of cars. They convey the connection that can at times be very strong between people and mechanical things.

How has your work evolved over time?

My work has changed from more general photography to most often a look at details of objects and I now try not to think very much at all when I shoot.  In the past I thought about what and how I was going to shoot something. Not so much now. I feel much more than I think when taking photos. I am certainly not a very technical photographer compared to many I know and have shot with. It seems the more I think about what I am going to do the less I connect with it. Connecting with what I photograph I think transfers to the processing and the final image.

Can you describe your style? Your vision?

I have a terrible time with this whenever I am asked what my style is. I stumble around and just say uh um not really. Honestly I’ve never understood what “your vision” means or is.


What do you think is the key behind your work? Is there something that drives you? Or something that keeps bringing you back?

This might sound terrible but I think the things I photograph are cool looking and I like to see what will happen after I take a photograph and process it. I never know where it is going. I don’t have a plan I just feel my way along each time enjoying the experience. It is beyond me to tell you why my photos look like they do or why I shot them as I did and why I processed them so that they appear as they do. I only know I did what I felt. What seemed on instinct the thing to do. The most important thing for me when taking photographs is to let go. To let go of everything that is not in the viewfinder. When I push the silver button and the shutter opens that is absolute peace. I know nothing in this world for that split second except the image that I see and that the camera captures. As if I am consumed by it and it by me.

Are there are local or other artists, photographers, bloggers, filmmakers, designers or creative people that inspire you?

Many local photographers I know inspire me by the way they approach their photography and life.   Also, Andy Warhol, Annie Leibovitz, The Wachowski Brothers. It isn’t only that I admire their work its also and even more so that all of them have done their art their way.


Your professional portfolio includes black and white and color work. Do you have a preference?

I prefer Back and White for most photos. Both the ones I take and the ones I see. There’s more versatility with black and white as it works well with almost all subjects. There isn’t the distraction of different colors, only shades in black and white. I find them most often more dramatic as well. I feel more when viewing black and white photos than I do with color.

What do you like about being a car photographer?

The cars don’t move!! They pose so nice for you. I can’t resist.

I like the connection I feel with the cars. The way they are “cold and mechanical” yet communicate with me through my camera.

How does photographing these cars inspire you?

I wouldn’t say photographing cars inspires me but it calms me. It helps me understand who I am in an artistic way.


Do you have any particular favorite places around the world?

I haven’t traveled much. Mexico and the Bahamas is about it.

What stands out for you as a must see journey or place for others based on your travels?

The Grand Canyon is the most beautiful and amazing natural thing I have ever seen. It is so overwhelmingly huge that it is hard to take in however it doesn’t make me feel small. It actually makes me feel larger than life.  There are so many different facets to it and if you move from one area to another it changes almost completely in its color and form and terrain.

What would be your dream project?

To photograph a Ferrari from every year since the company was started. Along with an expert or experts that could tell me all about the cars and their history. Then combine the photographs with the information in a show of my design.



Phoenix, Arizona

What is it you like about Phoenix?

Blue skies and sunshine most of the time.  The people that come from all over this country and the world to live here make it a unique place in that most of the people you meet are not from here originally.

Where do you shop for the tools of your trade?

Amazon. This will win me no fans I am sure!

Where and what was the last great meal you had in Phoenix?

Chicken and waffles at Lo- Lo’s . Central avenue location.

It’s all made from scratch and it’s all delicious. If you aren’t into chicken and waffles they have many other items on the menu I am sure you would enjoy.


Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

If its car show season then you would find me at a car show. Otherwise, in my back yard watching and probably photographing the hummingbirds or perhaps walking our dogs. 

Where do you go in Phoenix to have fun?

I don’t “go out” much in the evening to eat and I don’t go to bars almost ever since I don’t drink. Usually it’s to a friend’s place or they come over to our house and we play games like Cards Against Humanity or Balderdash.

What is it about Phoenix that inspires you to create?

The desert is so stark in many ways if you don’t look very closely at it. But if you do go out into the desert and take a good look, you’ll find all kinds of interesting things that at first glance are not obvious. That inspires me to photograph things that aren’t obvious on their own at first glance. There is some very interesting street art in Phoenix that is ever changing and it reminds me to not stay stagnant or expect things to always be around in the future.




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