Singapore Grand Prix – Formula 1 photographer Ian Thuillier has just released his first book, and sat down with FormulaSpy’s Thomas Maher ahead of the race at Marina Bay.
A native of Greystones, County Wicklow, Irishman Ian Thuillier is an amiable and laidback character. Quick witted and friendly, he’s made a living out of having an eye for the unusual and alternative angle on every story; whether that be in documentary and film-making, or his current project: The Art Of Speed. This new book of Formula 1 photography is a blend of everything from the people, the engineering, the emotion and, most importantly, the speed. Capturing the aesthetic of the sport over the course of the 2017 & 2018 season, Ian reflects on a memorable 18 months of work.
“My passion for F1 lies in the aesthetics.” he beams. “I mean, yes, the drivers do incredible things at controlling these machines at high speeds but the beauty of the car designs is what really does it for me. Look at the front wings for instance, they are pure works of art.”
“I’ve had many memorable moments while putting this book together. It’s been a lot of fun. Actually, in Hungary or Austria recently I was chatting with Bernie Ecclestone. I mentioned to him that it’s really tough these days for freelance photographers.”
I just grinned at him and said “Can’t you do anything about it Bernie?” He grabbed me by the shoulders and smiled. “Ian, the world is changing and it’s a different place now.” Never a truer word spoken! Unfortunately, the world seems to be happy with banal, boring photography and F1 is no exception to that rule… I’ll keep the unmemorable moments for my next book!
FormulaSpy is an Irish Formula 1 website, the only dedicated one, while Ian is the only current F1 photographer from the Republic. In a sea of British and other European media and photographers, I ask Ian about how he came to be working in Formula 1, considering there is very little interest in the sport overall here: “Yeah, it’s true that I’m the only Paddy photographer on the F1 stage. But it’s not true that I have no F1 experience prior to this. Back in 2000, I was designing websites, amongst many other creative adventures I embarked on!”
“Anyway I designed this website called f1grandprixracing.com which,unfortunately, only lasted 3 seasons. I had a friend who was a genius at CGI, he designed me all the circuits, which you could hover and fly over to use as clickable links.”
“I also bought all of the previous season’s F1 model cars and placed them on a record player. I photographed hundreds of images to make a 360 VR image of them. It was really cool but a little ahead of its time and unfortunately it needed a lot of bandwidth to run smoothly which wasn’t available at the time.”
While Ian talks, I flick through a copy of the book. It’s weighty, and the pages are crisp and firm – perfect to show off the extremely high resolution pictures. They’re all pretty spectacular, and I ask Ian to tell me the story behind some of his favourite shots from the book.
“This image really stands out for me. I was very lucky to catch him at the end of the British Grand Prix in 2017. He was giving an interview to a journalist and it started to rain.
All I had was a big 500mm lens with me and I had to keep stepping backwards to frame him. Luckily everything connected the further I stepped back and when he paused for a moment.”
“There is something very special about the Monaco Grand Prix. Even more so when you stand in the tunnel with cars flashing past you at 180mph when you have forgotten your ear-plugs. I once used Rizla cigarette papers and ,surprisingly, they worked! This image is of Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo coming through the tunnel at high speed.”
“The Italian fans are called the Tifosi. They really are a passionate bunch. No F1 race in Italy is complete without a few flares and screaming passionate insults at anyone who doesn’t drive a Ferrari! True gems…”
“The book is the result of 2 years of work in F1. A lot of blisters, aches, tears and pain went into this book. It’s a limited edition, so I have a feeling since half of them are gone already that they won’t last this Christmas.”
The Art of Speed is now available in physical and digital formats. To purchase, click the book cover or on this link.