Tuesday 7 February 2012

Formula 1: Doing things artistically at speed

Sometimes my impetuosity and ability to do things at speed leaves my friends reeling. There is nothing more exasperating (apparently) than being left dazed and confused in my slip stream as I go off on another diversion; usually followed by alarums and excursions in way or another.

My whirlwind tendencies, combined with the freezing weather, suggested that I should review an exhibition very close to home. So I popped unexpectedly downstairs from my office (with a cup of tea), had a gossip with the receptionist and spent an exhilarating few moments in the Collyer Bristow exhibition.

For 2 weeks only (catch it quickly) Darren Heath presents some of his best photographs from the 2011 Grand Prix season. This award winning photographer ‘specialises in Formula 1 and the automotive industry, endeavouring to cover events and commission in a creative and artistic manner using natural light and colour to their maximum effect’. Images of all the recent Formula 1 drivers are in evidence – Lewis Hamilton, Jensen Button, Fernando Alonso, and their teams, as well as the tracks and cities which play host to these annual races.
There is a slight danger that a specific single name exhibition of a technically challenging genre of photography might get repetitive – especially for those ambivalent about the sport. There are some very tedious pictures on the net of racing cars and perhaps when you have seen one car at speed, then there is an argument to suggest that you don’t need to see another. 

However the photographic effects a master photographer of speed, light, detail and landscapes can capture are incredible. A slow camera shutter speed provides an infinite number of interesting swirled backgrounds. The blurred colours and shapes obviously demonstrate speed but are also artistically stunning. The simple grey/green/blue horizontals are good but I prefer the determinedly 1980s retro pink/white/blue candy stripes melange of an image from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2011.

Though the car and driver is central some of the more interesting striking images were of the natural and artificial landscapes surrounding the tracks, eg, dramatic desert sunsets in Bahrain, dark damp forests in Belgium and glamorous seascape exuberance of Monaco. The different nature of each Grand Prix is identified and accentuated in his shots, adding interest and individuality.

© Darren Heath Photographer 2012
Portraits of individual racing car drivers and team managers are also included. It is easy to be taken with the beauty of automotive design – reflections, details, textures etc – and forget about the essential human drama behind each race. Emotions are running high and the stress, excitement and anxiety are reflected in his portraits. I prefer the introspective thoughtful images of the people involved which are clearly spontaneous and as fleeting as a flash of 200 mph racing car.

© Darren Heath Photographer 2012
My personal favourites are the detail shots of tyres, water droplets, and track side characters (some more well groomed than others). Action shots of a car in the pits, or cars colliding with a barrier are obviously exciting, however I think to be able to capture the essence of a Formula 1 race with a single shot of the Cavallino Rampante, or water droplets on a wing is a clear demonstration of his photographic skill and eye for perfect composition.

A whistle stop tour of F1 photography to leave you breathless; expect the unexpected and don’t stop until you’ve run out of rubber.

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