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What A Futuristic Car Factory Looks Like When Work Stops And Humans Leave

The finely tuned assembly line of this German BMW factory stops for no one–except this photographer. The results are an eerie commentary on our life with technology.

The BMW factory near Munich in Germany is a place obsessed with time: How quickly can a new car make it off the assembly line? But when photographer Edgar Martins decided to document the futuristic-looking plant, he wanted to show what happens when time stands still instead.

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“I’d like to think of these images as offering us encounters with a time that has been suspended, awaiting the resumption of operations,” Martins says. “This idea of stopping time in a highly industrialized environment is somewhat radical, perhaps even subversive, antithetical to the very nature of these spaces.”

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Each of the photos was taken during a break–either in a scheduled stop between shifts or models of a car, or even at Martins’ request. It required an incredible amount of coordination, he says. Some of the photos were made with exposures as long as 45 minutes, so it was critical that machines wouldn’t run and shake the camera.

Martins sees his photos as a point of resistance to the fast-paced, consumerist world. “The only way to achieve this was to slow down time. That is why I made use of long exposures,” he says.

The series, called 0:00:00, isn’t a critique of automation or capitalism, but it’s designed to make people think about the pace of life in 2015 and our relationship with technology and industry.

070a F 2 FFF (LLR)

“Factories and data processing centers are, perhaps, the most relevant production centers of our times,” Martins says. “I’m interested in how technology is shaping our lives and how we have become increasingly dependent on it, for better or worse. I’m also interested in the notion of technological utopias and the dreams and aspirations we attach to technological advancements and progress.”

Car factories have helped shape the world we live in and will reshape it again as companies react to climate change, he says. “The automotive industry faces some major challenges over the next decades, as it aims to deal with the inherent shortcomings and pitfalls of the internal combustion engine and its environmental repercussions.”

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The photos also show what factories look like without people–something that’s not hard to imagine happening in the not-so-distant future. Cheaper, easier-to-program robots may replace almost a quarter of automatable jobs in the next decade.

0:00:00 will be published as a book in November.

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About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley, and contributed to the second edition of the bestselling book "Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century."

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