Hot wheels: photographing the luxury cars of the Caucasus, and the kids who drive them

While travelling in the Caucasus, Amsterdam-based photographer Christopher Pugmire noticed something curious on the city streets. In Azerbaijan, Abkhazia, Georgia and Southern Russia he spotted children riding miniature cars rented from savvy street entrepreneurs. “Pretty much every park and square in the Caucasus region has a ‘kids’ car corner’ where a selection of the latest car models — and some classics — awaits the young drivers. These cars can be driven independently by the kids, or radio-controlled by an adult if the kid is too young or simply too bad a driver,” he says. “Everywhere I went in the Caucasus I either saw or heard kids crashing into walls or was myself bumped into by a kid’s car. So I decided to photograph them — to capture their pride and portray them as future adult drivers. You can already see their personalities: the car tuner, the off-roader, the classic car collector, the posh woman out shopping, the old couple out for a Sunday drive. What’s immediately noticeable is that these aren’t any ordinary toy cars but copies of highly desirable luxurious vehicles: BMW, Ferrari, G-Class Mercedes, even Maserati. Proudly perched in the driver’s seat, the children channel the fascination with wealth and luxury present in the day-to-day life and culture of the Caucasus.