Jan/Feb 2019 edition
Issue #3 AutoMobilia Resource Magazine
When starting to collect original vintage automotive photography it can be quite rewarding to focus your efforts on a specific driver, or car, or even a favorite event. But, it will make the collection harder to assemble, as the availability of images almost never conforms to your desires. That said, great images of Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes-Benz grand prix car are currently available of course, but go back in time seventy years and it is a completely different story. So, I would suggest that if older images are what you would like to collect, then widen your scope,
To illustrate, one of my personal “target”events currently is the 1936 and 1937 “Vanderbilt Cup Races”. Two of my favorite drivers that I look for photographs of are Tazio Nuvolari, the winner in 1936, and Bernd Rosemeyer, winner in 1937. I don’t seem to have a favorite car, but I find I do have quite a few Auto Union and Alfa Romeo photographs, all of which makes the photos included in this column, winners for me on several levels.
I especially like the Nuvolari photograph of him sitting in the Vanderbilt Cup in 1936, I am sure the photographers in attendance asked him to do that, as he was small in stature, but when he did so, only one photographer got the perfect shot. The other photos I have seen of this moment were taken from in front of the car, or partially blocked by the crowd around the car, so the photos just don’t measure up.
There are several photos in books and magazines taken within seconds of my Bernd Rosemeyer portrait from the 1937 event, but this one stands out as the Vanderbilt Cup is quite evident, and Rosemeyer himself has a very enthusiastic smile.
The race photo was taken right after the start in 1937, Rosemeyer’s Auto Union is leading Caracciola’s Mercedes-Benz, a lead that he never relinquished. These three photos would range in price from $75 to $400.
The photos here were all circulated as news photos in period. I purchased them individually from various sources and each had minor issues when I bought them. Condition should always be a factor when considering a purchase, but if you really want a specific photograph then you must ask yourself…. if not this one, then when and where might I find another one?
As an example of scarcity, I have handled thousands of photos in the last 25 years, and while these races have been covered by many books and magazine articles, I have never seen either of the two portraits anywhere. The racing scene has appeared in two books that I know of, but in severely cropped condition.
This scarcity is pretty common amongst news photographs, and is something that I have a hard time understanding. Where did they all go? You would think with a popular event like the Vanderbilt Cup, photographs would have been sent to all major newspapers. Yet, with all the photographs I have had and sold over the years, I don’t think I have seen three dozen repeat images of any subject.
I am like all dealers of collectable items, I would love to have some of the photos back that I sold. Of course, that is my collector side talking, I remember my dealer side was quite happy to sell at the time.
To read more great columns like this one from automotive photo expert Dale LaFollette...
Vintage Auto Photography
Dale LaFollette, the owner of Vintage Motorphoto, specializes in rare and collectable original racing photographs. Explore his knowledge in this column.