Dance Into The Light

The back story

PHOTO: Steffen Jahn

Staring at the Mercedesâ''Benz F700 sitting in his Stuttgart, Germany, studio, photographer Steffen Jahn is ready for the shot. But this time he won’t be behind the camera. Instead, he walks over to the car, grabs a fluorescent lamp, and tells an assistant to shut off all the lights. Then he does a little dance.

In a long, continuous movement, Jahn sweeps the lamp, wrapped with colored plastic strips, just above the Mercedes. With its shutter open, his camera captures not only his luminous brushstroke but also the intricate reflections off the car’s shiny body [above].

By combining majestic effects like this with bright photos of the F700, Jahn created the vibrant, kinetic compositions that illustrate this issue’s ”The Soul of a New Mercedes,” an in-depth look at how the German carmaker engineered this superluxurious and yet remarkably fuel-efficient concept car.

Jahn says he’s seen many futuristic vehicles, but ”nothing as impressive as the F700,” with its compact and clean engine, active suspension, leather-and-cork interior, and gleaming metallic paint. ”The trunk was filled with computers,” he says. ”Mercedes even sent a mechanic to help set up the car.”

Concept cars have itineraries as tightly packed as those of U.S. presidential candidates, and the F700 is no exception. Jahn had only a single day with it. He concocted several different special light effects and made dozens of exposures, but he says, wistfully, that he’d have loved more time with the car. Alas, it had to go to the Stuttgart airport the next morning. It had a date with a Saudi sheik.

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