Formula One photo has always been regarded as one of the toughest photography assignment in the sports world. The reaction times are measured in milliseconds and in order to get a good shot, both photographer and camera have to be quick on the uptake.
That usually means that the equipment used by the side of a race circuit is state-of-the-art and cost a small fortune. Joshua Paul decided to challenge that notion and instead of using a camera that requires a physics degree to operate, uses a 104-year-old Graflex 4×5 view camera.
A modern camera can fire off as much as 20 shots per second. Paul’s Graflex can fire 20 shots in total. The reloading process is somewhat tedious, so Paul has to choose his shots perfectly, in order to come out with one or two that are usable. Unlike his colleagues with modern devices that can store thousands of pictures on their memory cards, Paul has to make each shot count.
“I received this camera from my instructor James Fee while I was studying photography at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California,” Joshua says. “Another student and I cleaned his darkroom and helped him print his editions, in exchange for this camera. I got lucky with this one because the bellows are very long and I can shoot macro with it. It’s also the same camera Margaret Bourke-White used and is posing with on the Chrysler building.”
Talking about how difficult it is for him to capture each shot, Paul said: “It’s not that it’s difficult, but it’s a process, which sometimes goes well and sometimes not. To pan an F1 car at speed is very difficult and I can go through a lot of film with no results. I’m not trying to document the race, but F1 itself, so I’m more interested in the people, the cars, the tools, trucks, and atmosphere.”
Joshua claims that it was never his idea to shot or document Formula One competition: “I came to Barcelona in 2013 to see Blur play the Primavera Sound Music Festival. Knowing the race would overlap, I applied for accreditation with Road & Track magazine. It was approved three days before my trip, and when I arrived, I was immediately invited to the Monaco GP, and subsequent races after that. That was the first time I shot a car race.”
He has changed his mind since and has become one of the most passionate fans of the competition, even starting his own Formula One magazine.