This weekend I'm finishing up the Indianapolis 500 from 1914. There are so many photos that are exceptional that I'm hard pressed to choose, and I have a fair collection to show you today, so I'll get started!
I'll begin with a great photo of René Thomas in his car. I'm pretty sure this is following the race, but it's arranged very near the beginning of the sequence of photos in the book.
This next photo, is actually a scan of 2/3 of a page of the scrapbook. I just couldn't decide which of them I would eliminate, and I thought it would give a good feel for what a page looks like. It was nothing fancy, just some glue and the page in the scrapbook. The photos aren't carefully cut, and you may be able to see that they were not particularly carefully developed, either. One interesting aspect that I've been meaning to mention can be seen in the photo in the lower left. You see this in many racing photos in the early years of racing. It's caused by the way the shutter worked in old cameras, and began allowing light to strike the emulsion at the bottom, working its way up. Here's a fantastic explanation, with an animation to drive home the point. The same photo gives a good view of the famous bricks of the speedway.
This is probably one of the most interesting photos of the bunch, to me. I love the feeling of speed and the closeness of the action. It is uncharacteristic of many of his photos, more daring, and creative. Maybe he was just too lazy to stand up and take the photo? Part of the fun of exploring photos is that they connect you to the photographer, as well as the event.
I love the idea by the great photographer, Gary Winogrand, where he said that "...putting four edges around a collection of information or facts transforms it". This was just a racecar going past my grandfather as he sat in the grass, and he put his four edges around this in a really well composed photo, probably spontaneously. Look at how the scene opens up from the left. The road divides the frame vertically, organizing the image. The lines of the road opening up as it leads to the right dragging your eye along with the action. The blurry foreground pushes your eye up into the action as it comes into focus, and the grandstands in the back contains people looking for the next car to come by as this one roars out of the photo. This car is driven by Georges Boillot.
Next is a photo of René Thomas (center), the race winner, and Barney Oldfield on the left. I'm not sure who the other person is, but I think it's his mechanic. The other Stutz drivers were Gil Anderson and Earl Cooper, neither of whom finished the race, and this guy's face is still pretty dirty. I absolutely love the body language and the eye lines here. The guy on the right, leaning in toward the race winner, and Oldfield with his stogie, giving him a look.
I wanted to include this photo of the pits area since it provided some information you don't usually see in photos of the race. Again, it connects me to what my grandfather found interesting. My eye was drawn to the keg of gasoline, and the various tools, buckets, and gestures by the gents in the pits. I also like the depth of field, and how it excludes some of the people who are part of the conversation.
Here's a shot of Barney Oldfield cruising by, a quick glance for the photograph. Awesome. I love his stogie, hard to believe he raced with this (at least with one that was lit), and he's pulling off the track, so very obviously post race.
Another really well-composed photo, I thought. Gil Anderson in car 24 goes screaming past at 90+ miles per hour. Probably more, but I'm no race historian. I figure if these guys qualified at 90 mph, they must have hit 100 at times. I appreciate the lines here, again. The perspective gives a sense of grandeur - the amount of folks watching the race, and the distance of that section of the course. He opens up the depth of field going really deep, so that nearly the whole scene is in focus. To me, this is a defining photo in some ways. It tells me that it wasn't a great camera, and the photo wasn't given a whole lot of care in processing. Van's photos are crystal clear and are taken on good equipment. I don't know what the camera was, but all of these photos are 3x5 format.
I alluded to a wreck in the last post, and here it is. I out of time to research this, but if someone has some information, please post! I'm posting this for the same reason as the tires/pits photo; you just very rarely see this aspect of the early races. Here's the car driven by Joe Dawson. The wikipedia entry cites "Crash BS". I'm sure Joe agreed.
Just a couple more photos to wrap up this section of the scrapbook. First is a great photo of Spencer Wishart, although probably not a great action photo of him racing. I'm like a broken record here, but again I get a glimpse of what was important to Ivan. He's clearly into racing by this age, and he knows first hand what racing is about. It's not always winning the race, and this photo and the ones preceding it show that he was connected to the drama of the whole race, not just the big win.
Jules Goux congratulates Barney Oldfield after the race.
Finally, I believe this is the number 16 car of René Thomas winning the 1914 Indianapolis 500. The car is the right shape, and the number appears to be 16 on the car (with a magnifying glass). The sign to the flagger's right reads "16". I wonder why he didn't make his way further down there to capture this, but I can imagine it was a zoo around the finish line. The camera was by no means a new invention at the time, and there were plenty of photographers at the race.
Next photos will be of the Indy 500 in 1915, with a couple of very good photos of Eddie Rickenbacker. The first photo captures his high hopes at the beginning of the race. Rickenbacker threw a rod at just over half way through the race, and the second photo shows the disappointment as he exits his car to take it all in.