Meet Joshua Paul, who tells the narrative of the 2017 F1 season through the lens of a camera first used in 1913.
The art of photography is demonstrated in a myriad of ways when shooting, the creative mindset expressed through the voice of a lens.
Motorsport is no exception… and not just because these particular subjects are often travelling at speeds in excess of 300kph.
While it is undoubtedly an exhilarating adrenaline rush to capture some of the most technologically advanced cars in the world, it’s a tremendous skill – not to mention dangerous.
Nevertheless, following Formula 1 around the world requires a significant dedication and a desire to demonstrate one’s skill amidst a bevy of similarly adept ‘togs. After all, nobody makes a name for themselves by simply imitating someone who has already made it.
It is a professional quandary most will ponder over time but for Californian native Joshua Paul, he knew he had an eye-catching photographic trick up his sleeve.
Taking the extraordinary decision to be exactly that – extraordinary -, Joshua began adopting an archaic yet gloriously unique approach to F1 photography by dusting off his Graflex camera… made more than a century ago in 1913.
Packing the Graflex alongside his more conventional Nikon D800, Joshua – who currently resides in New York – arrived Monaco reckoning that if he and his peers were photographing the same subjects, it was up to him to be distinctive in the way he was shooting them – with spectacular results.
“I thought to myself ‘What can I do for Monaco?’ Because it’s so repetitive, it’s the same cars, same drivers, so I thought maybe I should shoot Monaco in period.
“Because the first race here was 1929 and my camera is from 1913, so it would have still been used, and I thought maybe I’ll shoot in black and white in Monaco, it’s so beautiful. So I did it, I brought it, and the FIA loved it,”
“When I asked if I could bring an old camera to the race, Pat [Behar, FIA Photographer Delegate] asked what it was, so I said it’s a 1913 Graflex. He asked ‘does it shoot film? Does it have a lens?’ I said yeah then he said ‘So, you can bring it’”.
The 2013 Spanish Grand Prix marked Joshua’s first race as an accredited F1 photographer having originally intended to visit Barcelona for a rock concert. Having realised the Spanish Grand Prix overlapped with his time there, he applied to cover the event through Road & Track Magazine.
It wasn’t long before Joshua’s career in motorsport gained traction and he began to receive invites to upcoming races in Europe. With the encouragement of family and friends, Joshua set himself a path to cover Formula 1 full time.
Even so, Joshua came up against a hurdle midway through 2013 when Road & Track stopped sponsoring his accreditation having opted to limit its F1 coverage. Far from being a lost opportunity though, it was merely the incentive for Joshua to go ahead and create his own F1 magazine Lollipop.
“I decided to launch a magazine and call it Lollipop. I chose Lollipop as a name because it’s the tool that used to be used in the pitlane for the drivers to stop and go. The FIA approved it, and the first issue was all about the Spanish Grand Prix and my first race and the narrative of that race.”
Getting to grips with how to navigate around race tracks, Joshua began the 2014 season in foreign territory heading to the other side of the world to shoot in Albert Park, Australia, then on to Malaysia for the second round of the season.
By the time Spain came around, Joshua was already planning what he could do differently in Monte Carlo, identifying that a special race requires a special approach – or in his case, special equipment.
Despite recognising the evident challenge of shooting with such equipment, Joshua’s gave himself a tough self-assessment initially.
“I came to Monaco with the Graflex and it didn’t necessarily go very well,” Joshua recalls. “The reason why is that my eyes had changed. I hadn’t shot with the camera for around 10-15 years, and now I need reading glasses, so I can no longer focus the camera very well.
“It was really hard to shoot, but I endured and people started to take notice and thought it was cool, but it’s so massive that I was taking up a lot more space than I should be!
“I got the film back and there were a couple of good frames, I like them a lot now but at the time I was a bit disappointed because I shot 100 frames and I didn’t really like the film. Now I look back on it five years later I think it was a really good shoot. I think we’re just hard on ourselves as photographers and as creative people.
“So, I decided to keep bringing it for the rest of the season and I’d shoot around 50 frames per race. It really started to come together in Hungary and Germany where it was a bit moodier.
“It feels moody and it was cloudy and it just lends itself to black and white, it’s a little bit dark. It’s not really celebrating F1 like in Monaco where it’s bright with a red car next to an ocean, but they’re cool distinctive images.”
Now with 41 races under his belt and into his fifth season, shooting in period establishes Joshua’s unique creative voice, a voice that lends itself to narrating a Grand Prix weekend through his eyes and not those of the TV viewer.
As unilateral cameras capture a race story, they don’t necessarily explain the behind the scenes of a weekend, who the drivers are without a helmet and the workers behind the build of a car.
For Joshua, the actual race is the least interesting part of a weekend as he’ll focus on the people, the tools and the car. This way, the image has lasting power that compliments the style of his Lollipop magazine, which currently releases two issues per year.
“Part of my project when I came in here was just trying to do portraits because as a fan watching from the United States, we don’t see the drivers parade, we don’t see any time on the grid, they show 15 minutes of it maximum. So for me it was like, how do I know if that’s even Kimi in the car?
“Obviously, it’s a guy in the helmet all suited up behind a visor, so I’m trying to show what they look like, show that they’re good looking guys, they’re fit, there’s sex appeal, I think it will really help grow the sport.”
I followed Joshua around the Circuit de Monaco during FP1 to get a glimpse of how he combines shooting from a Nikon to the Graflex.
The first location was the iconic tunnel, and even though the muted V6 power units don’t project as much of a decibel reading as the old V8s or V10s of yesteryear, earplugs are still required as the sound bounces off the walls and shop fronts, shaking the glass as the cars fly through. There is no F1 experience more spine-tingling than this.
“When I first came to Monaco in 2013 I walked through the tunnel and it was still V8 engines, and noise in the tunnel was 140 decibels, which is nearly deafening,” Joshua reflects.
“I remember going through with ear plugs with my hands over my ears and I was more nervous that my lens was going to shatter. Because these are delicate instruments, they shouldn’t be in a tunnel with an F1 car, or five F1 cars coming through.”
This is where Joshua began his session to get establishing shots of the teams he needed. We spent almost half an hour in the tunnel as Ferrari took longer than the rest of the teams to begin their runs. When you stand so close to the circuit, you get a feel for how dangerous the job can be as mentioned earlier, even small elements of a race track like debris can be harmful to passers-by.
“There’s debris flying around, when I got into the tunnel I got hit, a piece of rubber came through the Armco and it hurt! I was wondering if something burned me or it cut my jeans. It’s exciting though, we like this adrenaline of being that close to the track.”
From the Tunnel we wandered back towards Portier and up to Turn 7 just after the hairpin, a spot Joshua hadn’t shot from before but was instantly impressed.
Looking back towards the hairpin offered a perfect vantage point for the Graflex, as the Armco barriers were lower than hip height and non-existent on the opposite side, there was also no sponsorship signage in the background. Add a slow moving F1 car to the scene and it was a perfect recipe for a vintage shot.
“I think it’s a great spot, for one it’s one of the only places on the track that doesn’t have Armco, and it doesn’t have advertising.
“So, it will very much lend itself what I’m doing with the Graflex. Often with my pictures, you’ll see maybe the car will be distorted or it’s like a silhouette, but then you’ll see a logo or the Heineken 0.0 sign, that’s a brand-new beer so now we’re in the present. I’m trying to keep it very romantic.
“I guess I’m trying to live in an era where I wasn’t born. I think it was born 50 years too late!”
The rest of the shoot was spent at Turn 7 switching between Graflex shots and Nikon. There were gaps between the Armco which allowed Joshua to experiment further with his snaps, lying down on the ground to get a driver-eye view exiting the hairpin and tackling the kerb at Turn 7.
Again, Joshua highlights the need for a photographer to find his or her own voice to make something of themselves in such a competitive field.
“We all have access to the same cameras, the same lenses, same cars, everything. We can all stand at the same corner, but what’s great about photography, like writing, is we all choose different shutter speeds, different apertures, maybe I’m a foot lower or you’re a foot higher, it’s amazing the difference.
“I can stand next to Vladimir Rys for example, I can look at his lens and I can imagine what the shot is, then I see the shot later on Instagram or something, and I’m like ‘I can’t believe he shot that right next to me, because my shot is 100% different’.”
While Joshua may not have any of his own work on his wall, there are certain photographs he’s taken over the years that haven’t been published yet.
Some he’ll sit on waiting for the right publication, others, like a beautiful shot taken in a secret spot at Monza looking down towards the Curva del Serraglio, are just for him. It’s a shot he’s so satisfied with that it may be the first to end up featuring in his apartment.
For now, Joshua is continuing to lug the Graflex around the world shooting Formula 1 as if it were 1913. His popularity is growing thanks to the exposure of his work which has opened doors for his Magazine, as he’s beginning to receive more access for team and driver portraits to feature in Lollipop.
If you’re planning on visiting an F1 event soon, keep an eye out for the man watching modern F1 through the lens of history…
Feature originally published on crash.net