We’ve been covering Luftgekült on Speedhunters for a long time now, and the show has been on my radar since before I was a contributor here.
The first time I got a digital taste of the show was back in 2016. The fourth showing was more artistic and inspiring than ever before, but alas, I was not in attendance. I can’t remember what kept me from Luft 5, but for some reason I couldn’t make it to that one, either.
At least I have a decent excuse for not attending the proceeding shows in the UK and Germany, but again I come up empty-handed as to why I missed the epic display at Universal Studios that was Luft 6. I don’t know what happened as far as shows 7 or 8 are concerned, but each time some catastrophic life event or non-negotiable prior commitment kept me from going.
I promise that each time a Luftgekühlt show rolled around I had the best of intentions, and yet I was zero for eight. Not a great track record.
But, last weekend, the stars aligned. I was finally granted my long-awaited overdose of Porsche.
I was far from the only one, though — the organizers sold nearly 15,000 tickets for Luft 9, but thankfully I was able to access the show before general admission for some of these photos. If you weren’t one of the lucky thousands who made it out to Mare Island across from San Francisco, then hopefully this will help tide you over until you can make it out yourself.
Just don’t wait for nine shows to go by in the meantime; you’ll regret it.
So, what is Luft? Even if you aren’t all that familiar with the show I’m sure you already understand the basic concept: air-cooled Porsches and a nice location. It’s a simple recipe, right?
In theory, sure, but I can assure you that in practice it is anything but. Just take the photos you see from each event. They always look better than those from other shows, and it isn’t only because of the cars or the location — nor the photographer, for that matter.
After all, a photographer can only capture what’s in front of them. When we’re lucky we get to choose and position the subject, but this just isn’t possible at a car show. It’s part of why, in many ways, I don’t enjoy shooting so-called static events as much as I could. I just find myself thinking why aren’t this car’s wheels straight, or this car would look so much better five feet further to the right, or switched with that other car, or any number of things.
At Luftgekühlt you don’t have that problem, and this is no accident. I ran into Jeff Zwart — Luft’s Creative Director and, of course, a storied automotive photographer, videographer, and director — at the show, and he explained in simple terms that Luft is a car show for Instagram. He continued, sharing how excited he gets setting up the framing of the main show cars in their surroundings knowing that this is how he would want to shoot them himself.
As he is laying out the cars in their spaces, Jeff is constantly thinking of what would make the best photograph. Only, it’s not for himself, it’s for the thousands of people who show up with a camera in their pocket. The show is specifically set up in a way for people to create beautiful images, regardless of their equipment or their experience.
This is why Luftgekühlt always looks good, and it’s not so simple to achieve this. In fact, without the right people in place, it would be impossible to replicate.
Porsche fanatics are like no others, and we need more shows like Luft. Mature, thoughtful shows. Shows that look nice. Shows that are nice to attend. The fact that this one marque is able to encompass so much variety is truly remarkable. And this is all without showing any of Sunday’s extra and entirely-new-to-Luft show, Air | Water, which Naveed will be sharing on Speedhunters shortly.
On that note, there really is no ‘competitor’ to Luftgekühlt that comes to mind. Sure, there are other shows that check the boxes in the paragraph above, but I’d much rather go to Luft again than walk around yet another golfing green full of million-dollar relics. Or visit another convention center crammed with as much product per square foot as possible.
This isn’t to knock other events, but Luftgekühlt was fresh. Yet even in the idyllic layout, like any other show, the engaging challenge to push myself as a photographer was presented. It’s always cool to see what other people take home from the same setting, too. Looking at some of the amazing images my friends have shared I feel like I missed the mark.
There’s so much work you can do, and I feel like I should have done more. But the fact is, I was really just hanging out with my friends all day. It was my first time at the show, and I was enjoying it, taking it in. Finding this balance is key, and it’s a balance that Luftgekült has struck perfectly.
However, the show has left me hungry for whatever is next for Luft, and whatever is next for me. It’s not often I find myself on the other end of a long day shooting wanting to use my camera some more.
It’s a good feeling to have, and I can’t wait for the 10th rendition of Luftgekühlt. I’d better see you there.