Mallett’s mental meanderings
“I STILL HAVE BOXES OF BLURRED SLIDES…”
After weeks and weeks of blistering sun a dramatic change in the weather almost deterred me/us (I was passengering a chum) from attending the Luftgekühlt event at Bicester Heritage, where all day rain was forecast. How British is that, red hot to monsoon, must have confounded the California-based organisers. Having agreed not to go, opining that it was only going to be the same Porsches that we had seen many times before just arranged in a different order, a late evening call from my chauffeur changed the plan. ʻWeʼre Brits and rain does not stop our play – weʼre going, Iʼll order some tickets,ʼ said he. And we were both so glad that we ignored the forecast and braved the rain, as did an amazing number of fellow air-cooled Porsche-pushers.
It was pleasing to see that three or four 356 Speedster owners also ignored the downpour – given that the Speedster, even with the roof up, is extraordinarily hygroscopic. With the intensity of the morningʼs rain and the current value of their immaculately restored cars, this was an act of extreme valour.
But where have all the 356 owners gone? Whether it was the threat of rain or the fact that 356s are now in the possession of fair weather drivers itʼs hard to know, but of the hundreds of Porsches present, both old and new, barely a dozen were of the 356 variety.
As expected, and inevitably for an oldie like me who has been looking at Porsches for half a century, it was a case of (mostly) the same old Porsches rearranged – but what an arrangement it turned out to be. The whole event felt like a massive art project, curated by someone with a designer ʼs eye for a good image. A number of selected cars were strategically placed against features of the World War II RAF bomber base, isolated from distracting background clutter to gift us visitors with ready made ʻnice shotsʼ.
Photo opportunities abounded and as the rain eased the day was largely spent tripping over crouching snappers seeking a good angle while doing oneʼs best trying to avoid another snapper ʼs sight line. Luftgekült confirms, if confirmation was indeed required, that the automobile is firmly established as an art object and indeed in this case an object from which to create art.
I have never participated in one of those amateur photography events where a camera club hires a ʻglamour ʼ model to pose for a special evening of ʻArt Photographyʼ (honest, I havenʼt). Iʼm sure that the intensity that the Bicester boys displayed in their efforts to get the perfect angle on the erotic curves of a 911ʼs derriere could not have been much different to chaps jostling for position around a scantily clad model. Significantly I canʼt recall seeing any women snapping away. Is it purely a man thing?
Iʼve been a bit of a camera freak since my teenage years in the 1960s when few families rarely possessed more than a Box Brownie for the occasional holiday snap of their annual two-week holiday. Film often stayed in the camera for weeks, sometimes months, before every precious frame was used up and eventually processed. Indeed, I have one friend who recently removed a film from his old camera and judging by the snaps of his daughters who are now in their 20s calculated that it had been in there for 19-years! But thatʼs extreme. Even enthusiasts would rarely take more than a frame or two of a car unless it was something very, very special.
Now, with pixels effectively free, I rarely end up with fewer than hundreds of shots. I remember talking to a well known motor racing photographer who started his career as a Fleet Street ʻsmudger ʼ in the early 1950s, and who, on his first assignment to the Le Mans 24 Hours for his paper, was issued with a cumbersome plate camera and 12 glass plates – twelve! – thatʼs one pic every two hours if you spread them out. At this year ʼs Le Mans Classic, editor Seume admits to taking over 1000 shots – yet published a little over 20…
The frugal use of film or plates in those days explains why one largely sees the same shots of early races reproduced time after time in modern magazines.
Looking back through my old negatives, I can see that in the ʼ60s I rarely used an entire film at a race meeting. How I envied the trackside pros with their motor-drive Nikon Fs pumping film through as if it was free – which I guess it was to them.
In 1972, and working in advertising, I finally bought a Nikon – an F2 – and joined the motor-drive club. The following years absorbed a ridiculous amount of money as I tried to emulate the professionals by squirting Kodachrome II through the Nikon with machine gun rapidity.
At only 25 ASA (a really, really slow speed for non-photo-savvy readers) my success rate was frequently outstripped by failures. Whole 36 exposure rolls sometimes resulted in only two or three good shots. I still have boxes of blurred slides – a few actually possessing an unintentional ʻartyʼ semiabstract quality.
Todayʼs digital age has democratised photography. With the camera and, incredibly and increasingly the phone, doing the complicated exposure stuff, everyone has the opportunity to take great photos, and many do. The Luftgekühlt formula of choosing a photogenic environment in which to stage the event has given the ordinary Joe the chance to shoot car images more normally associated with professionals.
All in all, it was great stuff and I canʼt wait for next year ʼs event – come rain or come shine. CP
With cars carefully posed before a suitable background, Luftgekühlt gave budding photographers the perfect opportrunity to get ʻthatʼ shot…
Many would describe Delwyn Mallett as a serial car collector – one with eclectic tastes at that. His Porsche treasures include a pair of 356 Speedsters, a Le Mansinspired Pre-a coupé and a 1973 Carrera RS. Some of them even work…