What was the best time to be a photographer?
the late 1990s is when I watched it on TV and that was when I wanted to be there.
the late 1990s – when I was actually there.
the late 1950s was an amazing time with all these phenomenal works teams with incredible machines, like the Guzzi V8. Then they all withdrew and it slumped for a few years
Jpg or Velvia or Kodachrome?
Kodachrome every time I love shooting Velvia, for nostalgia’s sake... not jpgs – RAW files. But either way, I’d still rather sit over a light-box than stare at a Mac.
Canon or Nikon? GH: PG: DM:
Nikon Canon Canon
Rainey or Schwantz? DM: PG: GH:
Rainey, no question Schwantz! It’s 50:50 Schwantz
Rossi or Marquez?
Marquez. Okay, okay, Rossi Rossi. I never photographed Marquez I take it we’re talking about Graziano Rossi?
Donington or Silverstone?
I’d dig a pit and bury Silverstone Donington over Silverstone Donington for me
Two-stroke or four-stroke?
Four-stroke – I’ve been around a long time
Two-stroke, but I’ve never had one go past me on the straight. A four-stroke, when it comes past, goes through you
Go to Goodwood Revival and when there are people going round on TZ250S... that’ll answer the question. And they sound nice. And they smell nice. And they bite yer arse too
Who had the best racing style
Geoff Duke – part of the bike, no knees out
I would say Schwantz again – all knees!
I would say Marquez, but then you’ve got Vale who’s changed his style, or even Lorenzo who’s so neat and smooth. But from a photographer’s point of view you want him sideways and front wheel in the air
What’s the best looking bike you’ve photographed?
easy – Sheene’s Heron Texaco Suzuki RG500. It was the colours – red, gold, white. Roberts speed-block Yamahas. Classics Stoner’s 800 Ducati. So small and sleek
probably Marc Marquez and Maverick Vinales; he’s really open and approachable. I wish we had the same relationship with riders Don had – you just can’t approach them.
Your library is burning down and you can only save one picture... PG: Probably Mamola going sideways at Goiânia in Brazil in 1988. It was his first year on Pirellis on the Cagiva and the tyres were shit so he just decided to go round sideways everywhere. That was the shot that made me realise I could take pictures that people noticed. DM: If it was an emotional thing I would go for Mike Hailwood’s second race in 1957; it wasn’t a Grand Prix, it was at Scarborough. He was totally unknown. His father came up before the race and said ‘Are you the MCN photographer? My lad’s racing today, can you take a picture of him?’ I said yes, what’s his number? In the race, on a borrowed bike, he came past me leading the race, then crashed, re-mounted and still finished third. I remember thinking what on earth? GH: From a technical point of view, there’s a shot going under the tunnel at Motegi in Japan, which makes everything white when it’s sunny behind. From a technical point of view I like that shot. And if it’s going to be any rider, it has to be Rossi.
Describe your typical race weekend... DM: For me, a typical race weekend would be from a Thursday for unofficial practice. I would walk every inch of the track in the reverse direction, making a note of where the light was, whether it was dull under trees where you couldn’t shoot in low light, technical homework. But it was also about spotting riders, because for most of my era there could be 80 riders trying to qualify and every Grand Prix had wildcard entries. Often it was a way of spotting the next Rossi, or whoever. And photographers have always been better at that than journalists because we see the riders at far-flung corners, we see them under pressure, we see them in the wet. Most of the journos in my day never left the press office.
Then, come Friday and official practice, I’d be working hard. You had to shoot with two cameras, one black and white, one colour because you couldn’t convert between the two. And so I’d have at least four cameras and a duplication of lenses as well, which made a hell of a heavy camera bag. And when the races started proper, you had 50cc, 125s, 250s, 350s, 500s, sidecars and, in one era, 750 Grand Prix bikes.
And of course before digital you couldn’t see what you’d just shot. At the TTS or Grand Prix where I had a hotel room, I used to get in the wardrobe, sit there for 20 minutes until I could see every chink of light, then get a roll of gaffa tape and seal it all up. Then I’d take a little jar of developer, another with fixer and another with water. And I’d set-to, in the pitch dark in the wardrobe... and more than once a maid would come in and get a fright. But that way I could dish negatives out to 10 different magazines – it was the only way you could earn a living.
The job didn’t finish until I’d flown home on Monday, and got the pics mounted, captioned, dated, and sent out. And on the Wednesday I’d fly back out and carry on. It was round the clock. PG: The most interesting phase was when modems were invented. David Goldman and I were shooting on two bodies; black and white and colour. The black and white was for MCN, and the journalist would fly home and get it processed at MCN’S office in Kettering, ready for printing on Tuesday night. So you had to split your head into ‘this is the MCN camera’, but also the colour stuff is what we were trying to sell to Motocourse and the glossies.
Then modems and scanners came along and we’d have to find a lab near as near the circuit as possible to process, say, five rolls of film from 40 or so. Then we’d sit there with the scanner, scan them in, then use an audio-coupled modem in a hotel room to try and send them at 9600 baud – I remember spending all night with David in a hotel room in Brazil trying to send five pictures somewhere, and the phone bill for that one night was $1300. GH: I’m not complaining about the hours I do now! I get to the circuit on a Thursday and shoot portraits and paddock pics, and try to find as many as riders as I can. Obviously top riders are the best for clients; ideally you want intimate portraits of riders looking directly into the lens. The teams I work for also want certain pictures of people or bikes – and then there’s Thursday’s press conference to shoot, too. On Friday to Sunday, generally I’m at the track at 7.30am and I don’t leave until the job is finished in the evening; say, 10 at night – but once it’s done, there’s no going back to it. It’s all on the website instantly. Even at lunchtime we’re sending pics.
We’re shooting something like 1500 pictures per day. That’s not massive motordrive stuff, that’s just a couple of pics of each rider on different corners. You edit that down to around 300 pictures, and they’re up on the website every day. More if it’s a big race. But on Monday you’re finished – you can go home and do what you want; get your lenses repaired.