I’ve had the privilege of shooting the Indy 500 twenty plus years in a row. I missed a few years, went back and did three more. I vowed the next one would be the 100th anniversary. Well, I’M NOT DOING IT! Why? It’s not the priority it used to be. I hope it’s a great, safe race, and hope there’s a new winner. Here are a few snaps of the great A.J. Foyt. The photo of A.J. hitting the linkage was during the third pit stop where his crew could not free the shifting linkage. The sight of A.J. coming down the pits, pulling his seat belt, and helmet off, and jumping out of the car while it was still rolling absolutely horrified me. I don’t think you could do that today, but I love the photograph.
Well, it looks like Bernie Ecclestone has made a deal to sell Formula One for $8.5 billion. Before he became a multibillionaire, he managed the Alfa Romeo Brabham team, shown here with my dear friend Lewis Franck. He has gone on to an illustrious career as a well known American journalist. Lewis may not have the billions, but he’s a magnificent writer and has a wealth of information on all types of racing trivia. He’s also a good friend. The driver of the Brabham Formula One automobile was Carlos Pace. Unfortunately, a short time after the U.S. Grand Prix, he died in a light aircraft accident in San Paolo, Brazil.
Most photographers spend the majority of their time building their photographic reputation for decades. Occasionally the sun, the moon and the stars are in perfect alignment and a photographer will come up with their definitive photograph that particular day. Like many things in my career, I’ve had some amazing mentors who taught me the ins and outs of a venue like the Indianapolis 500 Raceway- Rex Miller, Jim Arnett, Jim Schweiker, Chuck Robinson, Ron Thompson… to name a few. On this particular day, I was on assignment for Sports Illustrated. I had a game plan, photographing the start from the crow’s nest. At the end of twenty laps, I ran down to turn one where I “accidentally” cut a small hole in the fence (I do not recommend this), shot another thirty laps, then worked my way around to turn three and then into the pits. I started from the last pit and worked up to the first; halfway back the gasoline alley, I climbed the pagoda to shoot the finish. It was the closest finish in the history of the Indianapolis 500 up to 1982. I had a great assistant- Rex Miller’s, son Geoff Miller. A little bit of luck? Lots of practice, lots of preproduction. Know your spot, know your focal length, know your exposure. Don’t freeze, make your photo, get on the learjet and bring it back to New York. This is another short excerpt from my memoirs, not the whole story. To all the ships at sea, great shooting and have a wonderful day. Joe D.
If it’s May, it has to be the Indianapolis 500. This photograph was selected by Sports Illustrated as the third greatest photograph in the last 100 years of the 500. They reproduced it in the centennial issue and on their website. That’s the good news, the bad news is they never asked me. Does the word “copyright” mean anything to anyone? Who said “power to the people”? No, it’s “power to the corporation”, step on all the people. In this society, we all have to play by the same rules. Actually, I think someone wrote that in the Constitution. To my friends; go out and make some great photos. Capture history with a camera. Life is good, life is great. Health and happiness to everybody, even SI.
Well, next year it’ll have been 30 years since I loaded film into your Nikons at the 1982 Indy 500. It was a complete thrill to finally be able to work the other side of the fence after growing up at the track each May tagging along with my Dad. Of course things have changed a bit since then. In addition to the digital revolution, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has undergone a major facelift and is a World-class facility. I started shooting the 500 for Reuters in 1990 and have been back ever since. Last year, I had the honor of having my college-aged daughter, Ainslie, join the family “business” and become the 4th generation of Millers to pick up a camera at the 500. Back at the 1982 you captured the memorable image of the Johncock/Mears finish, and who knew that 24 years later in 2006 I’d repeat the feat by capturing the Hornish/Andretti finish that would appear double-trucked in SI as well as the NY Times.
I am so proud of you not only as a photographer but as one hell of a fine human being. There are very few young people that would give up their bed back in the day so we could get to the Indy 500 at 5 A.M. to beat the traffic. And like many of my assistants, you did so much more than just load film into my Nikons. Without your help, that photograph would not have been done. It’s something that I’ve been aware of my whole life. We tend to think we work in isolation. We tend to think how important we are. But the same way that Rick Mears would say “It’s a team effort”, I say the same thing. We worked as a team. Your work is amazing. You deserve everything that you get and some more. And who knows- maybe in the next couple of years, we’ll have an opportunity to work together again. Keep on shooting and remember the first rule of photographing racecars: Never turn your back on one.