Photo illustration by Joelle McKenna
Feb 22, 2021
Rewriting the formula on Formula One race photography
Photographer Josh Paul discusses shooting the "elegant circus" of Formula One racing for the past eight years—with a camera from 1913
Josh Paul is a familiar face in the Formula One press pool—and a hard one to miss at that. For the past seven years, the easygoing Brooklyn-based photographer has lugged a hulking 100-plus-year-old camera around the world with him to snap stunning and vintage-feeling images of some of the fastest machines on four wheels.
Given to him by a photography professor, his Graflex 1913 camera looks about how you’d expect it to: Big and boxy, straight out of the silent movie era. But the photos Paul takes defy expectation. This old Graflex yields shots of race cars—and portraits of drivers—that feel both otherworldly and eternal. You can almost smell the grease in these photos, feel the heat rippling off the asphalt … and sense the stoic lunacy of someone who would drive in one of these races.
“I would turn around from the race itself and shoot everything but the race,” says Paul on this episode of “Brooklyn Magazine: The Podcast.” “Let’s start dissecting what this sport’s really about.”
In our interview, Paul breaks down his career, his love of F1 and his intrepid approach to living. Commercial photography pays most of his bills: Paul has shot for Road & Track and Outside magazines; he captured imagery on Ground Zero after 9/11 for the New York Times Magazine on his Graflex (which he promptly put into storage until his second F1 tour in 2014).
But his baby is Lollipop, a lush 200-page magazine and ode to F1 racing that he launched not long after his first season covering what he calls the “incredibly elegant circus” in 2013.
“My goal was not money. My goal was to be happy and have fun. And it was to travel around the world, meet cool people, do what I love to do,” he says. “And this is an extension of that. It’s totally illogical, by the way, to be printing a high-end magazine right now. It’ll never break even unless I sell it or take advertising.”
It’s somehow fitting that a sport as illogical as Grand Prix racing would have a tribute magazine that’s equally illogical. The small amount of copy in each of Lollipop’s five issues is highly designed and stylized. There are no ads and it comes with a steep cover price of $40. The sixth issue should be out when racing returns in late March, says Paul.
“It’s for the photography fan; it’s for the Formula One fan. It’s for people who like typography, who like printed matter,” he says. “I have a lot of Instagram followers from around the world, but they’re looking at a two-by-two inch image … my film is four or six times that.”
Check out the podcast of more.
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