For no good reason autowriters.com has not until now put the Spotlight on an auto photographer. That oversight is corrected with this look at one of the best, Pete Lyons who has just launched his “freshly redesigned, rebuilt and revitalized” web site featuring thousands of historic motorsports photos at www.petelyons.com.
Mr. Campbell wonders how I got into this game. Well, Glenn, some lucky people just stumble into deep chocolate. I suppose I could have done something more PC all these years, but by great good fortune I drew a dad who liked both photography and motorsports and taught me to combine them. Voila, perfect lifestyle.
Ozzie Lyons was an engineer by training and that’s how he approached his photography. He always had the latest high-end cameras and lenses, and whenever we moved to a new house Ozzie immediately hammered up a darkroom in the cellar.
I didn’t inherit his aptitude for engineering, and I can’t say sloshing around in photo chemicals was fun, but I did find out that working with a camera is a creative joy. Composition, panning, planning … I love it. The first time a magazine published one of my pictures was a thrill that still hasn’t grown old.
That magazine was England’s Autosport. Dad was their USA correspondent precisely during my formative teen years, when imported sports and racing cars made the automotive world exciting for us both, so it seemed natural to start sending in my own racetrack work. It began with photos and then, tentatively, apprehensively, I submitted words. I think my first published race report was from Bridgehampton in 1964. By 1967 racing coverage was my main livelihood.
For good old Autosport I spent six seasons going all over North America to races of all kinds: Can-Am, Trans-Am, Indycar, Enduros, F1, even Baja. Then for four years, 1973 through ’76, I was F1 correspondent for both Autosport and the US AutoWeek, covering every Grand Prix around the world. That station felt pretty exalted.
More recently I’ve put in desk time as editor of a couple of monthly magazines, but mainly I’ve enjoyed good freelance relationships with a long list of publications (a premier one now is Vintage Racecar) and publishers. Of my nine books to date, three are based on my beloved Can-Am.
To my mind, writing and photography go together. They’re different but associated means of examining and expressing what I think of as “the Magic of Motorsports.” What’s also magical is how, in either discipline, there’s always something new to learn.
Long ago I switched to computers for writing, and it’s been ten years since I gladly swapped film for digital photography. Now, thanks to my wife Lorna, the technologically gifted one in the family, I’ve been able to marry those two skill sets to build an Internet presence; we’ve just launched a third iteration of petelyons.com.
Goes some little way toward redressing what the Internet has done to the print publications which used to support us all.
If I had my motorsports career to do over again, I sure would, but I’d do more of it. I’d make the effort to attend more races, interview more racers, visit more race shops. I’d take more pictures, too. My silly thinking then was, “film costs money.” Now, I try not to think of the unrealized value of those uncaptured images.
And of images I did shoot but no longer have. I used to blithely mail off film hither and yon, never worrying about getting it back. “Those pictures are only good for this week’s news, nobody will care about them years from now.”
My keen-eyed foresight argued against investing in old racecars, too.