May/Jun 2021 edition
Issue #16 AutoMobilia Resource Magazine
Race programs and newspapers use tight head shots of racing drivers, but those only show you what the person looks like. Environmental portraiture surrounds people with their activities and their passions, providing deeper insight into who they really are. I’ve chosen a few from my personal collection of vintage photographs as examples to show you what I mean.
The first image is of Giuseppe Farina at the 1937 Eifelrennen, casually leaning against the rear tire of his factory Alfa Romeo 12C. Interestingly, another photographer—or maybe the same one—took a second photo from the front of the vehicle of the two mechanics working on the brakes at about the same time; in the background, you can see Farina still leaning on the tire. That photo recently sold in Germany for €1,309! Personally, I prefer the photo we see here—and I would value it at $400 to $500.
The photograph of Mike Hawthorn in front of the Ferrari pits, hands in pockets, pants tucked into socks, at the British Grand Prix in 1956 is an image from Keystone Press. Because of the angle from which the photo was taken, Hawthorn seems to tower over the other people in the frame. He looks like a man destined to become a World Champion—and a man we all would have loved to party with at least once. His skill behind the wheel was beyond reproach when he was on, but there were other days when it just didn’t seem important to him. I would value this photograph at $250 to $300.
The next photo is of Phil Hill preparing his helmet and goggles for an unknown event. Ever the perfectionist, Hill’s quiet and precise nature comes through in this image. He became America’s first World Champion in 1961. He started his road racing career around 1950, racing until 1967. He survived one of the most dangerous eras in racing, and he did it without a major injury. I would expect this photo to sell at $150 to $200.
The photograph of Jim Clark in a Lotus 33 was taken at the German Grand Prix in 1966 by an acquaintance of mine, Jutta Fausel. When I met Fausel in the mid-1990s, she had traveled the world photographing Formula 1 and Formula 2, as well as shooting IndyCar events. I found her a most handsome woman when we met, so I am sure she was a knockout in her early twenties when she took this photograph. As you can see, Clark thought so, too—he gave her a wink just as she pushed the shutter! For a fraction of a second the photographer and her subject made a connection. This photo would be valued between $150 and $200.
You may argue with calling the hands-on-a-Dunlop-tire photo a portrait, but look closely and you will see what the hands tell you about the person. We can date the photo by the early Nomex sleeves and the string-back gloves to around 1960 or a few years later. The bits of car we can see tell us that the man is looking at the engine in a rear-engine car, and the condition of the hands tells us that he himself works on the car at times. The photo was taken by Benno Muller, who was famous in racing circles as a portrait photographer, so I would bet that Muller thought of it as a portrait, too. I would estimate the value of this photo at $100 to $150—and I consider it every bit as powerful as the other photographs shown here.
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Vintage Auto Photography
Dale LaFollette, the owner of Vintage Motorphoto, specializes in rare and collectable original racing photographs. Explore his knowledge in this column.