Anachronism in Action: Shooting Formula One Racing With a Century-Old Camera

Anachronism in Action: Shooting Formula One Racing With a Century-Old Camera

Most of the time, when photographers are buying equipment, they choose the piece of gear that will accomplish their goal using some set of typical parameters: price, weight, build quality, warranty, size, speed, etc. These days, for shooting Formula One car races, you’d probably choose a fast-focusing, high frame-rate camera such as the Nikon D5 or Canon 1DX — if you had the budget for it — because F1 cars are fast and crazy. But that’s not what this photographer did; he decided to step back 100 years and break out a camera that was definitely not designed for shooting a modern-day race track. And the images are awesome.

After shooting F1 races for four years, photographer Joshua Paul decided he wanted to try something different. He unpacked an old friend: a Graflex camera that was made in 1913. In the past, he had used it to document the aftermath of the September 11th Attacks in New York, but it had sat unused since. 

Looking at these images, it’s hard for me to tell which is getting more of a “new life”: the camera or the cars. The whole set feels pleasingly anachronistic. While the subjects are modern and alive and fast and energetic — there's even one of a guy wearing headphones —  the images seem to do more than just freeze the moment of capture. They take the whole F1 idea back in time, like the old camera is grabbing everything it sees and throwing it back a century.

I know that shooting with this camera has to be complicated, and shooting race track action even more so. But Paul does a great job with telling the story of the races. By not just focusing on the cars, he tells so much more of the story that is often overlooked: the people and the process. It's not just that these images are on film, and not even that they're black and white. It's just a combination of everything about them that makes the subjects seem so much older than they are that makes these images fun to look at. Well done, Joshua!

All images by Joshua Paul.

[via BLACK FLAG]

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16 Comments

Jay Jay's picture

B&W kind of takes all the energy and punch out of these photos. Anyone ever shoot a rainbow in B&W? Yeah.

Sean Gibson's picture

Totally disagree. The liveries can be so bright and distracting, that B&W forces you to focus on the subjects more and what is actually happening in the photos. Not to mention, half of the liveries in F1 today are ugly. IMO

Ansel Adams did. But what did he know about black and white....?

Spy Black's picture

I use to be a big Adams fan, the whole 10-tone system and all that. Once back in the 70s, Time-Life offered a signed limited edition book of his works, which I bought. I marveled at all the perfect 10-tome images of Yosemite, 10-tone mountains, streams, skies, and then I came across an image with a perfect 10-tone......................rainbow.

I closed the book, and never shot B&W again.

Jay Jay's picture

TS- Two things i do know: Mountains are not sports races, and sports races are not mountains.

And thank you, Spy. My thoughts exactly. BW is great for certain scenes and moods, but color can really bring out the excitement of something. (Why aren't fireworks strictly made in black and white tones, instead of color? Who needs color??)

Spy Black's picture

Although I'm not big on B&W myself, I think you're not really seeing these images.

Jay Jay's picture

Just looks too gimmicky to me, that's all. I don't feel any emotion when viewing these photos, as i would have if they were shot in color.

Anonymous's picture

Agree with you Sean...these images are attractive yet current F1 is otherwise lost on me..and I was once passionate

Sean Gibson's picture

This season is finally brining some interesting competition back to the sport between makers, but I do wish they would lose some of the technology at times. Maybe they should start a second series on the same tracks with very primitive cars. With the addition of updated safety regulations of course, since back in the day the guys were basically strapped to a rocket with a little lap belt holding them in.

William Howell's picture

The photographs are very cool, but wouldn't a Lens Baby make the same picture?

Spy Black's picture

I don't think that's really what he was going for here. ;-)

Sean Gibson's picture

Agree! He is capturing the most advanced vehicles on the planet (behind fighter jets), in which he usually uses the most advanced equipment on the planet, with something very primitive by comparison. In other words, it's as much to do with the challenge and fun as it is the end result.

Jay Jay's picture

I agree on that point. Just because an old camera was used doesn't make it a good photo by default. (These are nice photos, but see the next section).

Even worse, when people confuse it for an instagram photo or as mentioned above, a lensbaby, as some invariably will, it makes shooting with that kind of camera, not quite as exciting as it probably should be.

William Howell's picture

I absolutely didn't mean to imply a snarky observation and I apologize if my comment was taken that way.

These photographs taken by this old Graflex are not as good as modern day pictures, of course, but I would keep my exuberanence to be able to have a chance to use a wonderful antique such as this, but make sure everyone knows what your artistic intentions are. And majorly publicize the endeavor as such.

Reading your comment makes me appreciate what old timey photographers had to go through to get saleable picture.

Curious, how many keepers versus throw-aways?

Sean Gibson's picture

I would love to see a current F1 photographer shoot an entire race using the best available camera from 1950 (F1's first season), and then compare them side by side with his previous race using a modern camera.

barry cash's picture

I love it its all about the image not the camera