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Picturing Cars

A beautiful photograph is like a gifted athlete: they both make something indescribably difficult look easy enough for anyone to accomplish. Photographer Tracey Kroll takes pictures that are the embodiment of those qualities.

Kroll is a photographer for Westchester County's own Consumer Reports . It's his ability to meld precision with simplicity that makes his shots of automobiles so compelling. His work graces the pages of the magazine every month, but his start in photography was somewhat accidental.

After a hand injury in college forced him to withdraw for a semester, his father, "One of the real ' Mad Men, '" he says, suggested Kroll meet one of his New York City photographer friends. "I walked into this gorgeous studio and ended up staying five years." He knew within the first few photo shoots that he had found his calling.

At 27, Kroll moved back to his native Connecticut and began his own business, specializing in corporate, editorial and portraiture. Most of his work was shot on location, so he was on the road "pretty much nonstop" for the better part of 20 years. But 16 years ago, his work for a shoot at Scientific American caught the eye of editors at CR, and they asked him to shoot some cars. Although he'd never done any car photography, he figured it out in short order – testing his camera and skills "like mad" in order to get better images.

It worked. Shooting cars is appealing to Kroll on multiple levels. For one, cars, unlike people, don't "talk back" to him. But his niche poses challenges as well. "Cars are very large reflective products with curved surfaces that 'see' everything around them. It's difficult to light them in the studio, but out on the track — where I spend about 40 percent of my time — the challenge is to capture something visually interesting or that helps explain an editorial point."

As dynamic as his work is, Kroll — like any artist — has his eye on other projects. "I'd like to do a series on drummers," he says. "I'm a drummer and I love the art form." Still, his focus on cars keeps him interested and engaged. What would pique his automotive interest? "I'd love to shoot the Batmobile ," he says.

Maybe the next time Consumer Reports reviews it, he'll get his chance.

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