A ‘You were There’ speciaI
An audience at the Palace, from back when F2 mattered enough for Ferrari to send a works team
We’ve stretched the definition of the word ‘amateur’ slightly to let us use these wonderful images, as the man who took them went on to become a highly respected professional photographer in the automotive field, whose work you will have seen in all the top motoring titles. However, when Ian Dawson set off for Crystal Palace in 1967 and ’68 he had yet to earn a penny with his camera.
“I had just completed my BA in Fine Art at Camberwell School of Art, doing sculpture as a post-grad — all completely non-appliable! The photography was only to record my own work. But I was obsessed with racing and lived near Crystal Palace, so I would pack my kit, put on my quilted nylon rally jacket and spend all day there. I had a Russian Zenit SLR camera, given to me as a 21st birthday gift a couple of years earlier. It was very agricultural in build: the lens had an air bubble in it (I still have it!) and the shutter button felt like someone had emptied sand into the mechanism!
“I had no formal instruction in photography; I taught myself, even building a darkroom and developing and printing all my own films. I eventually saved my pennies and bought a ‘previously cherished’ Nikon Nikkormat and lenses. That was a step in the right direction…”
Ian also made a racing film at the Palace, called Close-up Heroes. “I chose F2 because you could get great access to the drivers, and the F2 guys seemed very real.” That led to film work for racing sponsors, and then on to his unintended career in car photography, with Ian’s first professional shoot appearing in Car magazine in 1975. But he looks back fondly to those early days.
“The wonderful thing then,” Ian reflects, “was that as the mere mortals we were (and are still) it was possible to walk amongst the gods, our heroes. It was an amazing time — dangerous, yes — but amazing all the same.”