It occurred to me today whilst sitting here at the Leica Store City where my exhibition Through the Night - the Passion of Motorsport is taking place, that I might write a little precis about it for you.
As a photographer I feel it is my duty to take you somewhere when you are looking at my work. Saying this I realise that out of all the arts, photography pulls the short straw for this. Dance and music being the easiest, to draw you out of your moment and into that of a rhythm or a movement that your heart and soul instantly are captured by, leaving painting to perhaps not a more skilled eye, but a more patient outlook. Photography I always find has the confinements of the throw away culture we are so influenced by today and I return to my duty as a photographer - to help you escape.
This is where my body of photographic prints and indeed the book to accompany it, start from. I wanted to allow the viewer to be brought into a world, secret and unique to the conventional visitor to motor sport events, to discover a scene that entices you in to the smells, the noise, the speed and spirit of the theatre of the pit lane.
My current body of work exhibited at the show begins way back when I worked with Country Life magazine. They sent me to cover wonderfully British stories such as Country House Theatres, Trail Hounding and characters from quintessentially British villages. One story was to document the Goodwood Revival - for the theatre mainly. It was here where I discovered historic motor racing, beautiful cars and plenty of stories to accompany it, including my now, fascination of historic Motoristas.
Having started my photographic career in the theatre and dance arena, I took to The Revival as something of a complete joy and each photo became a new scene on the stage set. My research into woman racing drivers has developed somewhat and I have begun to work on a documentary about my favourite few from the 1920's and '30's, trailblazers who simply didn't know they couldn't - who simply did it - racing, flying planes and mechanical work. The Suffragists and the Great War put a rise to that, where only since the invention of White Goods did the demise occur.
However, back to my exhibition where, many visitors pop in during the day, asking questions about each photograph,
"Are they all shot with one lens?" a question from one interested party.
Yes, this exhibition rejoices in the Noctilux lens, the aperture of heaven, and the endless possibilities of letting light in through a lens that copes with such 'difficult' lighting standards, of just a torch or a single headlamp. My love affair begins with this lens and ends, or rather, my location of the relationship, occupies the pit lane and garages. This 50mm lens with an aperture of F1 (utilised very often at f1.4 or f1.8 and very rarely above f2.4) just cries out for shadows and intrigue.
"How do you know what is going to happen?" another question of the day.
Waiting is the game here, patience and observation, words often used by Henri Cartier Bresson and my hero Elliott Erwitt, who told me in fact, that to be a photographer you just "need to wait and be patient and then the photo will come to you." I have taken this to the core of my photographic practice and have even enjoyed relishing in his own photographic works, albeit in my head, whilst at motor sport events, wondering "what would Erwitt do here?"
"Do you like grain then?" a question of curiosity.
Yes I actually love a bit of grain, since using Agfa Neopan 3200 for years in the theatre, it really does work wonders in the Leica M6 and have wanted to continue my language (or style) through to digital in my Leica M and have, in Adobe Lightroom placed an Agfa 400 ASA film type to my digital images, with a tone of copper to replicate that of my favourite paper Agfa Record Rapid, which had a sublime reddish hue on black and whites.
My commission of the Nurburgring 24hours race for Black and White magazine where they insisted that I did not shoot too much motor racing as their readers would not 'get it', my challenge was met with a fabulous lifestyle story of walking in the forests meeting people who had set up camp for the past two weeks, with showers and villages, settees and chairs strapped to the fences where back in the garages my hosts, the Falken Tyre race team allowed me to capture some unique views of their drivers and pit crew.
It was on this commission that I realised how much I had fallen in love again with black and white photography and another love story begins. The passion of motorsport it may be, for some a simple hobby or profession, but for me the passion is something much greater, allowing me to truly hone in on the development of my photographic practice, and the understanding of how an aperture really works (using the available light), but in all honesty, this exhibition allows me to justify why photography can be a great example of one of the art forms that takes you out on an adventure, away from your norm and positions you back into your reality with perhaps a hope of some magic and romance leaving your heart fuelled and your soul balanced.
Through the Night - the Passion of Motorsport is at the Leica Store City 18 Royal Exchange, London, until September 9th.
Photos by Lara Platman