Interview / Simon Davidson | Yellowtrace


Simon Davidson is New Zealand-born, Sydney-raised full time photographer with a passion for the fast, loud and greasy car subculture. YEAH! From the smoke and seeming chaos of burnout competitions, to the strictly regulated world of the speed trials held on the vast expanses of shimmering salt at Lake Bonneville in USA, and Lake Gairdner in South Australia, Davidson is part of the scene. Over the past decade, Simon has been documenting Australian muscle and custom car culture from his own lifestyle as it continues to grow. “Living the life creates a deeper understanding of what you’re looking at, what the cars are going to do and what the people driving them are thinking. That’s when being in the right place shifts from pure chance to something far more calculated.”

From his highly successful 2012 ‘Salt & Smoke’ solo exhibition in Bondi, he has brought the iconic images from both series closer to the world with the launch of his online store ‘What Simon Sells.’ He has also been selected to show his Burnout series at the 9th International Biennial of Design Saint-Etienne in France, which will take place from March 12 – April 12 2015.

Featured Projects // Simon’s personal projects ‘Salt Flats’ & ‘Burnouts’

Why It Rocks // Simon translates the chaos of the burnout pad and the tension of the salt into visually spectacular moments, portraying beauty where beauty is not always obvious.


Litmup, Photography by Simon Davidson | Yellowtrace

Litmup / Burnouts Collection © Simon Davidson.


+ Hello Simon, welcome to Yellowtrace and thank you for e-chatting with us today. Could you please give us a quick introduction on yourself? When did you first decide you wanted to become a photographer?

Hello… I am a photographer based out of Sydney, Australia. My decision to become a photographer was more of a fortuitous accident. In my late twenties I was between careers and had recently brought my first camera. At the time I thought the best way to learn about photography was to find a job in the industry and get paid to learn. Those early years were spent working in the darkroom, hand printing Black & White images and processing film. I found the technical side of photography interesting and in the end never left the industry. I am very grateful that I started my career at a time when photography was still 100% analog.


Old School, Photography by Simon Davidson | Yellowtrace

Old School / Salt Flats © Simon Davidson.

Triumph Nick, Photography by Simon Davidson | Yellowtrace

Triumph, Nick / Salt Flats © Simon Davidson.


+ What was the inspiration behind taking photographs of ‘Salt Flats’ & ‘Burnouts’?

The short story of inspiration is simply I’m a car guy. Have always owned cars from the early 60’s. I currently drive a 1964 Falcon coupe powered by a sweet V8.

The longer story. All the inspiring photographers I assisted had extensive bodies of personal work and I knew personal work was paramount to my career. Soon after finishing my time as a photographic assistant I looked for a personal project. This was about 12 years ago. The Australian muscle and custom car culture became my personal project after a friend convinced me that I should check out drag racing one night. Over time I gravitated towards concentrating my work primarily on Burnouts and Landspeed racing on the Salt Flats – two extremely different disciplines of motor sport. Each one has it’s own unique working environments that produce distinctive photographic challenges. The racers and fans’ boundless passion was a big draw card as well.


Rolling Bones, Photography by Simon Davidson | Yellowtrace

Rolling Bones / Salt Flats © Simon Davidson.

Little Tanker, Photography by Simon Davidson | Yellowtrace

Little Tanker / Salt Flats © Simon Davidson.


+ What are you seeking to portray in your work?

Beauty where beauty is not always obvious.

+ Who or what are some of your influences? What other photographers and creative’s in general do you admire?

Creative influence comes from many sources… music, painting, theatre, art directors, graffiti or simply going for a walk. On a personal level I am fortunate to have many friends who work in varying creative fields. They all inspire me. There are also many amazing young artists producing excellent work in new mediums today, mediums that were not available a decade ago.

Documentary photographers and filmmakers are a huge influence for me. Photographers like Larry Fink, Don McCullin, Steven Shore, Dan Winters and Ed Ruscha. Filmmakers like Wim Wenders, Gus Van Sant and Rolf de Heer. There are too many to list.


Bombshell, Photography by Simon Davidson | Yellowtrace

Bombshell / Salt Flats © Simon Davidson.


+ Any interesting/ funny/ quirky facts about your work you could share with us?

Shooting Burnouts is loud and dirty. I survive a day shooting trackside by using noise cancelling ear plugs, which are then covered by aviation grade hearing protective ear muffs to block out the noise of the cars. I listen to calm music. I like the juxtaposition of music and the burnouts… my own personal music video.


Mr Gray, Photography by Simon Davidson | Yellowtrace

Mr Gray / Burnouts © Simon Davidson.


Let’s get real:

+ If I was not a photographer, I would…

…have followed my Pop’s career and been a fireman.

+ Three things every photographer needs…

Patience. Clarity. Tenacity.


Johnny Traverna, Photography by Simon Davidson | Yellowtrace

Johnny Traverna / Burnouts © Simon Davidson.


+ What’s the best mistake you have ever made?

Taking that the job in the darkroom all those years ago while I decided what I wanted to do for a career.

+ What’s one thing other people may not know about you?

I shot stills on Jackie Chan film and made it into the outtakes at the end of the film.

+ It’s not very cool, but I really like…

Having dance offs with my 7 year old daughter in the kitchen.


[Images courtesy of Simon Davidson.]


About The Author

Team Yellowtrace

Team Yellowtrace is a small and highly dedicated bunch of cool kids who assist in the production of design stories, general admin and correspondence associated with each and every post. The team works tirelessly behind the scenes, providing invaluable support to the Editor In Chief. Extreme love and respect to the power of ten!

2 Responses

Leave a Reply