I grew up with the simple child-like faith in the saying that “the camera cannot lie.” Life was straightforward and pleasant until one day in the mid-Thirties I opened my favourite monthly motor paper and saw a photograph of C. E. C. Martin in a 3.3-litre Type 59 Bugatti which appeared to have left-hand steering. By this time I had learnt that all Bugattis of the offset-driving position Grand Prix type had right-hand steering, so I was puzzled. The racing number on the car was 1 and the truth soon dawned on me that someone had printed the negative back-to-front and because of the number had not realised what they had done. The culprit obviously knew very little about Bugattis or he’d have spotted the left-hand steering position.
Not long after this my faith was shaken once more when a well known fuel company carried an advertisement in the National papers, depicting a Talbot-Darracq sports car at Donington Park. This also had left-hand steering when we all knew that the 4-litre Darracq had right-hand steering. In addition the photograph was taken on the hump of the bend at Donington called Hairpin, which was a swooping right-hander, yet the advertisement showed it to be a swooping left-hander. My first thoughts were that the negative had been printed back-to-front, like the Bugatti, but the racing number was 10 and that was clear enough, or so it seemed. Eventually I came across the identical photograph printed the right way round and comparison showed that some clever artist had “touched-up” and faked the number.10. From then on I was convinced that though “the camera cannot lie” the people who operate and manipulate cameras were well capable of lying and frequently did so to cover up mistakes or poor photography.
When my favourite monthly motor magazine started using colour photographs on the cover I was very sceptical (and still am) and on one cover there was a photograph of the start of a Grand Prix, with numerous blue cars in the picture. I queried this sarcastically, saying that I thought Lago-Talbots and Gordinis had long since given up racing. I was given a very convincing (!) explanation about how the blue of the sky reflected on the green cars, changing the colour, and the camera had recorded this accurately. The fact that I thought I saw green cars when watching the start was purely a question of conditioned reflexes!
A short time ago Daimler-Benz sent a 300SLR Mercedes-Benz sports car to Silverstone for Stirling Moss to drive in a parade, to commemorate his classic Milk Miglia victory. I was able to accompany him, as I had done in 1955, and many photographs were taken. The 300SLR we used was not the actual Mille Miglia car, but was virtually identical and like all these sports/racing cars had left-hand steering. In other words, I sat on Stirling’s right, as in the race. A friend sent me a German magazine, some while later, with a photograph of the occasion in it, and I was sitting on Stirling’s left. It all looked perfectly genuine, but was back-to-front. And so it goes on. Like good scientific inventions the faults lie in those who make use of them. Nuclear fission was a brilliant scientific step forward in research; the fact that the results were abused and turned into weapons of war was no fault of the scientific research workers. Last month we started colour photography in our centre spread photographic feature. The fact that Graham Hill was depicted wearing a green crash-hat was not the fault of the basic principles of colour photography but of the manipulators; the “colour-etcher” in his enthusiasm to help made a nonsense, forgetting that Hill wears a dark blue helmet with vertical white stripes.
The camera cannot lie, but the operators and manipulators can, and often do.—D. S. J.
[I couldn’t agree more. I remember one very well-known motoring writer who, wanting to illustrate Nuvolari’s Alfa Romeo trouncing the German cars in the 1935 German G.P., used a picture of this great driver in a monoposto Alfa Romeo, only it wasn’t going round the Nurburgring but was taking part in a French G.P. on the Montlhéry road circuit. Never mind, they could fake the racing number! They did this both in a magazine and in a book. But the background to the corner gives it away . . .
So far as Graham Hill’s green crash-hat in our first venture into a regular colour-section is concerned, apparently I must take all the blame, for I am told an editor is responsible for every error, including libel actions he doesn’t start, printing errors he didn’t print, and pictures he doesn’t see. But, although I am partially colour-blind even I know that Hill wears a dark blue helmet with white stripes.—W.B.]