This post has been a long time in the works and it’s gone through numerous rewrites. I’m not setting out to deliberately cause offense, but these things need to be said and if offense is the side effect then so be it.
It’s better to have 50% of the people love you and 50% hate you than to have 100% not give a crap so, in that spirit, I give you my open letter to the BTCC.
Dear British Touring Car Championship
Are you still running motor races these days? I only ask because the vast majority of images I see posted on social media after each race meet, by the photographers you have accredited, make the BTCC appear to be a race between a collection of Lycra-clad girls with placards. The girls pose like the consummate professionals they are but you can see they are wondering why they need to smile for the same photo weekend after weekend. They’re not alone.
I know you have some great photographers, Nick Dungan for example, covering the series but it’s the weekend warriors, the self-proclaimed “professional motorsport photographers” that I take umbrage with. They shoot a plethora of poorly composed, unimaginative snapshots of the grid girls then pass the time while the race is on by taking photos of each other drinking coffee. I don’t think I have ever seen photographs of the winners podium, with the champagne flying because by the time the girls clear the grid and the lights go green for the day’s final race, they are already on their way back to the car park. It’s nice that these guys have a hobby and I am sure their wives appreciate the peace and quite on Sunday afternoons but maybe they should try taking up golf?
In their defense, at some point it does finally occur to the “Usual Suspects” that they should probably go and take some photos of cars. So off they go, “March Of The Penguins” style to the closest corner where they stand shoulder-to-shoulder taking identical images for a few laps. Either the corner at the beginning or the end of the pit straight will do. It doesn’t matter if it isn’t visually interesting or an overtaking point; just as long as it’s not too far to walk or cause them to miss they next opportunity to take even more photos of the grid girls. Even these one or two percent of images that actually feature a car are so tightly cropped they could have been shot at any event – there’s no context, no sense of movement, no hint of the closely fought battles that BTCC is known for. Just the same 30 degree tilt and dead centre composition. Then there’s the obsession with quantity. Making sure every car is documented, preferably with a dozen flip book style shots taken in quick succession, seems to be more important than capturing racing moments. It’s bordering on train-spotting – turn up, photograph every car, go home. You could get the same result from a speed camera at the end of the straight. Where are the shots showing two cars barreling into a corner side by side, each driver vying to be the last on the brakes or a pit crew frantically working on a car between races? A driver in a moment of quiet contemplation or even fans dressed in team colours cheering from the grandstands? There are stories begging to be told, a whole season’s worth of drama. Rivalries between drivers, the emotional roller coaster when a team’s fortunes turn, tales of drivers beating the odds and carving their way through the field. Capturing this seems to be beyond most of the photographers you have on your list. I am not convinced they are even aware it’s happening around them.
By the time these images make it online most are over-processed to a point that they couldn’t be reproduced in print even if a magazine picture editor did stumble across them as they languish for ever more, un-keyworded and un-captioned, on the seldom seen websites of these photographers.
There are hundreds of upcoming photographers out there, some young, some older but they all have more passion and hunger for the art and would produce far superior photographs. Imagine what it could do for your brand to have stunning images all over the web after each race instead of the same snap shots of the same girls in the same outfits over and over again. I can happily give you names of some talented photographers if it would be helpful.
Please don’t mistake this letter for me putting myself forward as the solution. I simply have love and respect for the art of photography, as well as motorsport. I strongly believe the photographs being put into the world by your accredited photographers are detrimental to the public image of your race series. Almost everyone on your media list needs to either step up their game or step aside. Track and pit access is a privilege that needs to be earned, not a right. Anyone churning out the same tired work race after race needs to be removed and replaced with someone that will actually make use of the opportunity and create images that portray the BTCC as the exciting race series it is.
Do you agree or disagree? I’d love to hear opinions from both sides in the comments.