“American Dream Machines” Exhibit

Red classic car photo

Now through May, 2024 | First Floor Gallery, Miller Nichols Library

“American Dream Machines” by UMKC student Ben Walters is a collection of photographs created on 35mm film. Ben is studying Urban Planning and Design and plans to graduate in 2026.

Statement from the Artist

“American Dream Machines” is the name of the location where this set of images was photographed, but also speaks very closely to my love for finding and photographing automobiles of all kinds. The centerpiece of this collection shows the namesake neon sign that hangs in the main display area at American Dream Machines. It is a classic car showroom, dealer, and service center in downtown Des Moines, Iowa. The front showroom is open to the public during regular business hours, but the back service area is only open publicly during the annual Des Moines Art Fair. I was fortunate enough to see that space privately on a tour with the owner and these images are a glimpse at the showroom as well as some cars that are in various states of service or restoration in the shop area.

The darkness of the photos adds a bit of mystery in the space and helps to conceal some of the unfinished bits of some cars and their surrounds, while the slivers of light highlight some of the most distinct and beautiful lines and curves of the cars. My intention was to capture the allure of the automobiles in a space where they are cared for without any reference to time or presence of people.

All of the photographs were shot on my 1970s Olympus OM-10 analog camera on 35mm film. The film was then developed by Process One in Overland Park where the prints were made. I matted, mounted, and framed them myself. I personally enjoy shooting photos on film because it forces me to be much more deliberate with my shots. Film is expensive and as a result I treat it as a finite and precious resource. The other aspect that is finite and precious is the time that I have to capture things like this. There’s only one time a year that I know I can view that space without an appointment with the owner, and it’s difficult to capture the cars without people in the shots when it’s open to the public. This shoot was a rare chance to have the place to myself and interact with the cars and the light uninterrupted.

Visit the Artist’s Instagram

This exhibit is part of the UMKC Libraries Student Art Exhibits Program, dedicating gallery space in our libraries to share the creative and intellectual work of our students. Complete the Student Art Exhibits online application to be considered for exhibition.

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Case dimensions: 5’ long x 30” wide x 9” high sitting atop 3’ legs

Glass exhibit table


The First Floor Gallery is located just inside the main entrance of the Miller Nichols Library.

Wall with exhibit content

Conference Room 325

Located on the Third Floor of Miller Nichols Library. For access, enter the library at the north ground floor entrance or the west first floor entrance. Then take the stairs or the elevator to the third floor..

Map of third floor of Miller Nichols Library