Race Blog
Monaco 2017

New For Old

Photographers are a precious lot, all convinced they’re the first to come up with that revelatory way of seeing and shooting a shot. Fact is, of course, none of us are. Every picture has been taken before. Nothing is new.

Nowhere is this more true than in the intoxicating world of Formula 1. Since cars first turned a wheel and men started to race their primitive machines, those of us minded to record their exploits through a camera’s lens have striven to photograph man and machine in as ‘creative’ a way as possible.

Louis Klemantaski, Jesse Alexander, Rainer Schlegelmilch, Paul-Henri Cahier, Bernard Asset, great F1 photographers all, they made their mark and produced stunning imagery that stands the test of time – but none of these lensmen, however they may like to think otherwise, reinvented the photographic wheel.

I don’t mean to be disingenuous at all. Paul-Henri and Bernard are guys whose friendship I value and whose pictures of F1 past I admire. I greet Frenchman Asset always with a cheery ‘Master’, such was his inspirational influence on a young Formula 1-obsessed wannabe photographer growing up in 1980s south-eastern England. Me!

As good as Bernard and his peers undoubtedly were, every one of them was simply bringing their interpretation of what went before to a contemporary time. Using newer film, better cameras, higher quality optics, shooting with wide, standard or telephoto lenses, over- or under-exposing the colour or black & white film, using fast or slow shutter speeds, whatever techniques they employed it had all been done before.

Developing a style and a ‘look’ to one’s photographic work is key. Many is the time I’m asked advice on how to approach shooting a race weekend by those standing on the other side of the fence. Without fail my reply will include some encouragement to focus on shooting the on- and off-track activities in a way that viewers will remember and recognise in the future. Certainly, have in mind what those snappers whose work you enjoy do, but try, try very hard not to simply ape their style; rather take elements of what it is they do and bring them all together to cultivate your own way of recording a scene.

Don’t do as some in the F1 media room do prior to each and every F1 session, and trawl the websites of their photographer rivals before blatantly copying what they’ve seen on their laptop’s screen.

Sure, I’m the most competitive person I know, but it’s always puzzled me why those who blindly copy cannot appreciate that they’ll always be at least – and very often more than – one step behind their rivals.

At Sochi one of my ‘colleagues’ blithely informed me that, “Darren, your site isn’t working.” My somewhat terse reply – that yes it was, except for previous Russian Grands Prix galleries, so as to encourage him to indulge in a little less plagiarism – appeared (quite shockingly) to baffle the bloke.

Of course, what does make the top photographers of the past, those that shot on film, special is that they didn’t have the ability to do this. Other photographers had to wait until magazines or newspapers published their peers’ work to be able to see the pictures shot. This obviously encouraged those minded to do so to think a little more creatively for themselves and work harder to be as original as practicably possible.

Study the work of F1 photographers you like, and also – as I almost exclusively do - those that shoot outside the motorsport bubble, then indulge in some creative thought of your own. It may take you more time and effort to get to where you want to be, but you’ll be a far better photographer and garner way more respect as a result.

As a photographer you strive to be able to have your pictures touch other people and make them feel something, but, if you don’t feel it for yourself first, you’re on a road to nowhere…

Going into this year’s Monaco Grand Prix I resolved to look at the picture-taking challenges in a way I’d not done before. Having in mind imagery from the past I attempted to go to locations I’d not shot from previously, and at those places from which I’d photographed many races around the Principality during years past I took a step back, moving slightly away from the action in an attempt to show a slightly different - but not new! – view of this overly photographed place.

You can be the judge of how I fared by clicking HERE!

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