As the first rays of the morning sun began heating the desert sand, the roar of Harley-Davidsons approached the sleepy Nevada town. Onlookers watched in awe as a white truck pulled up behind the sea of motorcycles. Its door opened; Peggy Day climbed out. Camera in hand, she was eager to begin shooting. She had six weeks to capture the power and prowess of 38 new bikes for use in one of the iconic company’s brochures.
“You can’t help but engage the community when you pull up in a truck with a bunch of Harleys,” laughed Day. “I’ve had fun working with so many excellent products over the years. Each has presented its own challenges but that is what I enjoy the most. I want to give blood to every assignment.”
Specializing in large product photography, Day works under the business name Peggy Day Photography. She has extensive experience with designing, lighting and directing narrative using both film and digital. Her studio and on-location photographs have been used in corporate brochures, national advertisements and television spots. Photos she shot for the Race for the Cure campaign, led by J Walter Thompson, appeared on billboards in New York’s Times Square. Other clients include all of the General Motors divisions, DaimlerChrysler divisions, Ford and Lincoln/Mercury divisions, Toyota, Mazda, Honda, Hyundai, Harley-Davidson Motorcycles, Mack Truck, Dupont, Dow, Whirlpool, The United States Post Office and Goodyear Tire. Her work was included in the Detroit Institute of Arts’ “The Car and the Camera” exhibition in 1996.
“Over the years I’ve developed quite a large portfolio,” said Day. “But the images that have landed me the most work were those I shot as part of a series of collections called ‘Three Days.’ In the past 12 years, I’ve done about 8 of these black and white personal street work projects. I travel to small towns down south and look for interesting people in their cars and ask if I can take their picture.
“Once I obtain signatures on the model release forms—and this is so important because you never know what a potential client may want to use for an advertising campaign—I try to find out the person’s story and incorporate that into the photograph. I love this part of the job because I feel it’s a good indicator of where I’m at professionally. I think clients are especially partial to this series because people want to see real America, and so do I.”
Day’s motivation for becoming one of the nation’s first female automotive photographers began during a conversation she had with Walter Farynk, one of her instructors with over 37 years taking photos of automobiles for General Motors.
“Graduation was approaching and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my degree,” explained Day. “Walter looked at me and said ‘You can choose anything.’ Then he added, ‘But there are no women in automotive photography.’ I’m still not sure if I had read too much into it, but his words changed my life.”
In addition to continuing her photography, Day is preparing to teach sophomore and junior lighting studios at CCS this fall.
“Walking out of CCS, I was forever changed,” said Day. “Instructors taught us how to be disciplined and consider the way shapes and light play into our photography. We began looking at everything as if it were sculpture.
“I feel blessed to have had such a successful career—despite the challenges—and feel God’s hand guiding me. This profession is about so much more than documenting the experience of a particular vehicle. I harvest much of my inspiration from
- Automotive photographer