Gentlemen: noun, often attributive gen·tle·man \ˈjen-təl-mən
a man who combines gentle birth or rank with chivalrous qualities (2) : a man whose conduct conforms to a high standard of propriety or correct behavior
On Saturday, October 15, 2016 The Race of Gentlemen made its West Coast debut on Pismo Beach in California. After many, many months of drought, mother nature decided that it was the perfect time for a good storm to make its journey down the west coast. While we are very thankful for the rain, the storm surge played unmercifully with the organizers of this event. What mother nature didn’t take into account is that the estimated 10,000 attendees and 150 period perfect cars and motorcycle were, well, gentlemen.
Now, I am going to take some liberties and update the definition of Gentlemen to reflect how I see the term today. To me, a true gentleman is a person who treats people around them with respect and dignity, a person who is confident enough in themselves to offer a helping hand to someone that needs it-even if that person is competing with them, a person who isn’t afraid to try, to fail and to pick things up again and make another go of it with what they learned the first time. A gentleman isn’t perfect but they are honest enough to admit that. Hell, a gentleman isn’t a gender, a race or a position in life, it is a way of life.
I chose to shoot film for this event as it just seemed appropriate to the subject matter. As a photographer toting around old film cameras from as early as 1912 I will freely admit that my first reaction to seeing the weather was not very gentlemanly. When the sun is out in California there is a lot of contrast between light and shadow and there is a very different look to the diffused light that you get on a cloudy day. I decided early on that I was going to look for light and moments in different ways than I do when it is bright and sunny and to celebrate the moodiness of the weather.
Another thing that affects the feel of your photographs is the vibe of the people that are in them. A lot of the time, dark and overcast days make people feel melancholy and flat. This comes across in photographs and can be quite moving but it certainly didn’t apply to the people at The Race of Gentlemen – West. I spent a lot of time in the pits and by the starting line and all around me people were working on their cars and motorcycles, laughing, talking, encouraging each other and lending a hand and parts where needed. Competitor or not, these were gentlemen.
One of the things that you don’t get in photographs is the sounds and smells of what is happening around you. If you haven’t heard a hopped-up 4-banger or a flathead running full out, then you’re missing one of the sweetest sounds in the world. Between the sounds of these wonderful motors, the smell of spent gas and the energy of the crowd and the drivers this, to me, is a little sample of what heaven just may be like.
After a bit of a late start due to the storm surge the racers finally had their chance to see just how fast they could move their historic beasts down the wet sand. Run after run, win or not, it was a simple joy to see the huge smiles plastered on the faces of the drivers as they returned to the pit area and prepared for the next run. You could see the envy in the eyes of the support crews and friends who were not driving that day. I’ll bet that if you could see what was searched on Hemmings Motor News and the HAMB that day you’d see a lot of searches for “vintage” and “hot rod”. I won’t lie, there were strong thoughts of selling my ’51 Ford F-1 to fund a TROG project for next year. But I really need to at least finish that project before I can move on. Or do I?
I had grand plans to move into the actual race area for day two so that I could capture more images of the race itself, the sand flying, the flag girls on the starting line and the moments that really make a race a race, but alas, that was not to be as day two was cancelled due to the continuing storm surge. As disappointed as I was, I left with a huge smile on my soggy and sandy face. I felt like for a few hours I had the chance to experience something that really doesn’t happen anymore – gentlemen on wheels of steel pushing themselves and their machines as far as possible and as fast as possible to a place of time gone by and thrills long gone. But fortunately, BB King, the thrill is only gone until the next Race of Gentlemen.
I would like to say a huge thank you and send my respect to the incredibly hard working team that made The Race of Gentlemen possible. I am sure none of us can begin to understand the challenges and logistics of making something this special happen – especially here in California. Also a thank you to Sabrina and Danielle for your professionalism and work behind the scenes to make the media/press access run smoothly. Everyone that I dealt with from beginning to end of TROG-West were perfect gentlemen and I am honored to have be able to share this special event with you all.
This series is a work of love. I spent many hundreds of dollars and many days of processing, editing and making these final images the works of personal art that I want them to be. Please, if you share these images on a personal site, include a link to my web site (www.ScottPhoto.co) or Facebook (www.facebook.com/ScottPhoto.co/) or Instagram (www.instagram.com/scottphotoco/). If you wish to license an image for commercial use, please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll work something out beneficial for us both.
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