PHOTOGRAPHER FOCUS: Indira Flack - Great British Racing Drivers
1 October 2019
When presented with an insight into the personalities of the famous, we jump at the chance to have a good gander! Indira Flack has done just that with her epic project photographing over 100 racing car drivers. Titled Great British Racing Drivers we talk to Indira about what inspired her and how she approached them. The project will be exhibited at the brand new Silverstone Experience later this month.
© Indira Flack - Sir Stirling Moss OBE - Winner of the Mille Miglia 1955 in the record time of 10 hours 7 minutes and 48 seconds which was never beaten.
What inspired you to take on a project photographing racing car drivers?
A cycling accident, my partner Paul and Goodwood. In November 2013, a lady in a 4x4 tried to drive over me whilst I was out cycling. Lying face down in the middle of the A24, I had no idea it would ultimately lead to the most exciting and rewarding project of my career. Dosed up on painkillers and my favourite galaxy counters, I began to think that I’d like to do something more creative with my photography.
Paul, also a photographer, suggested that, as I would be surrounded by legends of motorsport at Goodwood Festival of Speed (FOS) that Summer, the drivers would make ideal subjects and Goodwood would be the ideal place to chat to them. A previous Country Life commission ‘The Great British Hobby’ gave me the idea for the title and ‘Great British Racing Drivers’ was born.
At this point, I knew very little about motorsport or which drivers to photograph, apart from the obvious F1 World Champions. Lots of research had to be done but I started with the FOS drivers’ list. It helpfully stated which discipline the drivers raced in and their achievements. My idea was not only to include champions, there are a whole host of brilliant drivers who never won a championship, Sir Stirling Moss for one. I wanted to show that although you need talent, determination and dedication to become a racing driver, you don’t have to win championships to be considered a great or inspirational driver.
© Indira Flack - Flick Haigh - First woman to become outright British GT Champion 2018.
You have captured over 100 drivers, which is no mean feat! How did you approach them and get them to sit before the camera?
Having a few portraits to show the drivers was always going to be the best approach. Luckily Paul, who has been photographing at FOS for about 20 years, was going to the FOS press launch at Bonhams. Knowing that Sir Stirling Moss, “the greatest driver never to have won the World Championship” and John Surtees, the only man to become World Champion on two and four wheels, would be there, he asked them if I could photograph them for the project. Bear in mind at this stage I had no idea what I was going to do with the pictures, so had no real details to give them. All I knew was that I wanted to exhibit the portraits somewhere. My wish list stated in those first letters included Silverstone, The Royal Automobile Club and the National Portrait Gallery. Despite my vague plans, they both happily agreed, followed shortly by Sir Jackie Stewart three time F1 World Champion, not a bad start!
It was then just a question of talking to more drivers at Goodwood FOS, Revival and Member’s Meeting, explaining my idea and showing them the portraits of the Stirling, Surtees and Stewart. Although none of the drivers knew me, they all loved the idea and all of them said “yes.”
Being able to speak directly to the drivers at Goodwood has been invaluable, especially that first year when nobody knew me. I sent letters to the drivers I couldn’t speak to and the the response was fantastic. Since 2014, I’ve got to know more and more drivers and motorsport people, so have had a lot of help. In particular the British Racing Drivers Club (BRDC) and Motorsport UK have been kind enough to forwarded many letters for me. The Duke of Richmond, one time advertising photographer before taking over the Goodwood Estate and creator of the Festival of Speed and Revival, has been a great supporter of GBRD. With his passion and knowledge for both photography and motorsport, I am delighted that the Duke has written the foreword for the exhibition.
© Indira Flack. L-R Johnny Herbert - Le Mans 24-Hours winner 1991 David Coulthard MBE - first ever winner of the McLaren Autosport Young Driver of the Year award 1989 and Martin Brundle - World Sports car Champion 1988, Le Mans 24-Hours winner 1990. All former F1 drivers, now TV Pundits.
By taking the drivers away from the track you have captured the racing legends in settings and locations that link to their motorsport story or that give an insight into their personalities. Which for you were the most challenging / inspirational locations you shot at?
Johnny Herbert, David Coulthard and Martin Brundle at the British Grand Prix, Silverstone 2018, was the most challenging, for lots of different reasons. Trying to organise to photograph all three individually was proving impossible, I’d tried for over a year. They all have bonkers schedules and are not in the UK that often and having no budget to fly round the world to meet them made it impossible to coordinate. I decided the only way forward was to arrange the shoot in a place they all had to be and photograph them all together. They are all former F1 drivers, now TV pundits so the picture that had popped into my head, was the three of them with microphones, leaning down towards the camera. The podium at the British Grand Prix, Silverstone seemed like the perfect place.
With three weeks to go it was all very last minute and went right down to the evening before the shoot to finally get the last piece of the jigsaw in place. Nail biting but very exciting. Martin Brundle and David Coulthard confirmed with a week to go, they were happy with the idea but Coulthard couldn’t guarantee that a microphone would be available.
Three days to go, media accreditation came through, by special dispensation from the FIA. I had a camping pitch but nothing to put on it and no idea if Johnny Herbert had even got my email.
Two days to go, I had two drivers, possibly one microphone, media accreditation, a camping pitch, a camper van but still no word from Johnny Herbert. The day before the shoot I arrived at Silverstone, got a lift to the media centre with a bunch of very nice people, who turned out to be Channel 4, so that was David Coulthard’s microphone sorted. In the paddock I bumped into Sky’s Craig Slater, that was Johnny and Martin’s microphones sorted, although at that point no guarantee Johnny would be attached to his ! Finally, about 6pm sitting in the media centre having dinner, I spotted Johnny Herbert at a charity football event on the pit straight. Abandoning dinner, I rushed down to speak to him ‘Oh yes got your email, sorry ignored it. Yes I’ll be there tomorrow, no problem’.
The actual shoot was short but hilarious, think three naughty schoolboys but naughtier and you get the gist!
© Indira Flack. W Series Brit Pack. L-R Sarah Moore - BritCar Endurance Champion with Matt Greenwood 2018, Jamie Chadwick (standing) Inaugural W Series Champion 2019, Alice Powell - Race winner and third overall in the inaugural W Series Championship 2019, Esmee Hawkley - Multiple winner Porsche Cayman GT and Jessica Hawkins - Stunt Driver.
Do you have any other plans other than the exhibition for the project?
Yes, a book is being designed which will include all the stories behind the pictures and some of the behind the scenes pictures. That will be on kickstarter sometime soon, so look out for it. I’ll post the link on social media @gbrdphotos when it’s up and running.
With personal experience of dementia, Paul’s Dad suffered from Vascular Dementia, there is an idea in the pipeline to have a charity auction of selected prints for Sir Jackie Stewart’s charity Race Against Dementia. Sir Jackie’s wife Helen, suffers from frontotemporal dementia. Her battle has inspired Sir Jackie to create the charity to raise funds for ground breaking global research. www.raceagainstdementia.com
I’d also like the exhibition to be shown in different venues, after Silverstone. They don’t have to be motorsport venues necessarily, after all GRBD is a photographic portrait project, which just happens to feature racing drivers. Having ticked Silverstone off my wish list the National Portrait Gallery would be good!
© Indira Flack. Susie Wolff - First and only woman team Principal in Formula E.
How different an experience has it been working on this project in comparison to your commissioned work?
Normally I get a brief, which tells me who I’m photographing where and when. Then there’s the style each client prefers and layout to consider. I’ve enjoyed the total freedom of not having a brief. Being able to shoot the picture exactly how I want, without the restrictions of layout or style has been great. Researching and choosing which drivers to photograph has been fascinating. I’ve learned such a lot about these amazing people, which I knew very little or nothing about at all. I’ve really enjoyed the organisation, the more challenging the more satisfying it is when it all comes together. It has been an absolute privilege to spend time with and hear tales from, some of the most successful and talented racing drivers in Britain. There has been much laughter and listening to their fascinating stories was enthralling. What could be better than chatting for an hour in John Surtees’ kitchen, amongst many others, over a cup of tea that he’s just made for you ? I have absolutely loved the whole process ….. except trying to secure sponsorship ! There are still sponsorship/marketing opportunities available if anyone out there is interested!
© Indira Flack. Jason Plato - Two-time BTCC Champion 2001/10
What is next for you?
After a short lie down in a darkened room, I’d love to continue with GBRD, evolving it into an archive. There are so many drivers I haven’t photographed yet and I keep discovering drivers to add to the list. I have a few ideas for other projects too but haven’t decided on any one in particular just at the moment.
View more imagery from Indira Flack in Find
GBRD website www.gbrd.photos
Social media twitter and instagram @gbrdphotos
GBRD will be the first visiting exhibition at the new brand new £20 million Silverstone Experience, opening 25th October 2019. Admission included in Silverstone Experience entry fee.
A brand-new visitor attraction located at the Home of British Motor Racing, The Silverstone Experience takes visitors on a thrilling 2.5hour journey celebrating the past, present and future of Silverstone. Fascinating stories of human endeavour, great sporting rivalries and engineering innovation are told using state of the art interactive displays and iconic film and imagery that will appeal to and entertain all age groups. Open 364 days of the year and situated at the main entrance of Silverstone Circuit, tickets are allocated in time slots and customers are encouraged to book early to guarantee their preferred date.
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