Joshua Paul is a hard man to miss amidst the busy aisles of an F1 press room. His inviting personality and dynamic energy are hard miss. Lugging around a century-old film camera, almost the size of a small luggage case, further draws people’s curious glances.
Paul is the founder of Lollipop Magazine, an award-winning publication which serves as a visual documentation of an entire F1 race weekend. Paul’s images are etched on the light-sensitive silver halide crystals of photographic film, in stark contrast to today’s digital age, showcasing the speed-driven world of racing photography. His magazine, which makes reference to the lollipops used during the refueling era of F1, is published in New York City, a rare place to find an F1 publication.
The irony is immediate. Joshua brings a much needed fresh approach to F1 photography by using obsolete photographic equipment and techniques. The results are timeless slices of life from a Grand Prix race weekend. Contrast black and white portraits, grainy car shots. Everything drawn from Paul’s rolls of film are eye candy for racing enthusiasts. GP Traveler took the opportunity to chat with the American photographer prior to the start of the 2017 season.
Joey Franco: Tell us about your career as a photographer prior to 2013, before you photographed your first F1 race.
Joshua Paul: I began shooting professionally in 1997, within a couple of weeks of graduating from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. My first assignments were shooting portraits, food, gardens, and travel stories for Fortune, Saveur, Garden Design and Travel & Leisure, among others.
In 1999 I took a personal trip to Cuba and shot about 300 rolls of 120 film with two 1953 Rollieflex’s and 100 sheets of 4×5 with my 100 year old Graflex 4×5 view camera. I was too broke to develop all the film, so I did it in small batches and subsequently printed two portfolios of about 60 11×14 prints. This body of work completely changed the course my career and I soon became a travel and adventure photographer.
Outside Magazine sent me to Mozambique to paddle a kayak down a 1000km stretch of the Lugenda River, the last uncharted river in Africa! We dodged hippos and crocodiles for 1000 kms. I spent the next decade traveling to some of the most remote places in the world, including crossing the Northwest Passage on a military Icebreaker, three trips to the Amazon River, the Republic of Georgia, China, and almost every country in Central and South America. I’ve been to about 95 countries and territories so far.
Tell us about your first time shooting F1.
This all happened because I booked a hotel and flight to Barcelona to see the band Blur play the Primavera Sound music festival. After making the bookings did I realize it would overlap with the Grand Prix, so I called my editor at Road & Track, who I occasionally shot for, and he agreed to sponsor my accreditation. It was approved two days before my departure after months of waiting. It changed everything, including the course of my career a second time.
I arrived at the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix totally star-struck! Within minutes of entering the paddock, I almost walked into Fernando Alonso, saw Kimi, Lewis, etc. I never intended to be an F1 photographer, but when I arrived, I immediately went to the FIA office to thank them for giving me accreditation. My contact, Pat Behar smiled, took my hand and offered me a seat. We talked for about ten minutes, mostly him telling me how much he liked my work, and it seemed like he had memorized my entire website. He then invited me to the next race in Monaco! I spent the next hour in the media center filling out more accreditation forms, booking a room through AirBnB, and then a flight to Nice.
I took a couple deep breaths, left the media center, entered the paddock and track, and did my thing. I shot the entire weekend using a manual focus Zeiss 35mm lens, but I had never shot sports or racing, so I approached it like any other shoot using the gear I felt most comfortable with.
I ran into NBC broadcaster Will Buxton who encouraged me to walk into the team’s hospitality suites and ask to shoot the drivers, so I did. Ferrari invited me to shoot Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa in the garage before FP 1, and Lotus said yes to FP2. Everyone was incredibly hospitable and it really couldn’t have gone better. The first issue of Lollipop is a documentation of the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix.
Were you a racing enthusiast growing up? Did you ever attend races as a spectator?
I was born with an innate love of cars! My mom drove a Datsun 240Z, then a Porsche and BMWs. My dad had a 1973 BMW 2002tii. I watched every form of racing, from NASCAR and Indy, to Dragsters and F1, pretty much driving the rest of the family crazy, but I was obsessed. One day at a BMW dealership, I saw a poster of the Brabham BT-52 hanging on the wall. “What’s that?” I asked. The salesman said, “That’s Formula 1!”
I somehow found it on television and watched the 1983 season, when Nelson Piquet won the world championship with that Brabham BT-52, still my favorite F1 car of all time.
After moving to New York in 1999, my brother and I visited the Canadian Grand Prix, then returned again in 2001 and 2002. The V-10’s of that era were deafening! As we crossed the Pont des Iles, we refused earplugs from every vendor thinking, “no, we’re hardcore, we really want to hear the screaming engines.” Well, about ten minutes later, Schumacher took to the track for FP-1 and I almost lost my mind. Needless to say, we turned around and walked back, paying something like $5 per pair instead of $1, at the beginning of the bridge.
I loved that race more as a fan than photographer because Montreal is so much fun. It has a great food and bar scene with friendly and attractive people. What’s not to like?
Tell us about your approach to shooting formula One, it’s very different from what we see from traditional F1 coverage these days.
At a flea market about ten years ago, I found a 1969 issue of a French magazine called Réalités, which covered the Indianapolis 500. The images immediately brought back childhood memories of laying in front of the TV watching racing. I thought to myself, “if I ever shoot F1, I’ll do it like this. The color is rich and the images are raw.” Photographer Fred Mayer purposely shot blurry and out of focus, really capturing the speed and cars moving through the circuit. I still look at that spread for inspiration.
Most F1 images are shot for the news or the big stock agencies. There are only a few people taking beautifully expressive and timeless images in Formula 1, mostly because there is really no lucrative market for it. My approach is to make images so beautiful they defy subject matter.
I spend a lot of time thinking, walking, and looking for a good shot. Where’s the sun? What’s in the background? What color is the car? I shoot with manual focus lenses, look for landscapes, graphic elements, and shoot very slow shutter speeds, and try to find my Zen. One great shot makes my weekend and I really try to find that defining image.
What was the catalyst behind starting Lollipop Magazine?
After Monaco, I was invited to subsequent races. I realized something special was happening, but Road & Track told me they had to cut me off as they had no intention to publish this much F1. A friend and I immediately came up with the idea to start our own magazine as a way for me to stay in the sport. I was craving good F1 images and figured with 400 million other fans, they might too.
Rather than focusing on the news, gossip or other minutia around F1, our concept was for Lollipop to be a photo narrative of each race. After four seasons, it’s incredible to see how much the cars have changed, how many drivers and teams have come and gone, and how many engineers and team principals have moved on. We’re documenting all of this and I think it’s really the core of what Formula 1 is all about.
Lollipop has no price or date and every issue is different in concept, and design. We’ve changed the size and might do a really large issue next.
How important is it for F1 to have independent publications such as Lollipop as opposed to conglomerate-owned media outlets that we typically find in the press room?
It’s critical to bring fresh blood into anything. I was the new guy for the past few years. I think I’m the only photographer/publisher with permanent accreditation who prints a magazine of this quality about Formula 1 racing. We print in Iceland on the best paper we can find. I may stay in AirBnB’s and share rides but I don’t hold back on printing and paper.
A physical magazine satisfies all your senses – touch, feel and smell. I’ve watched dozens of press officers, drivers and other journalist react to Lollipop. They pet it, bring it to their noses to smell it and their eyes light up when they open it.
In this era of digital media, the average lifespan of an image on Instagram or Facebook is .5 seconds. I think a high-end print publication is very desirable. I’m trying to make something so beautiful that they will never throw it away.
Do you think having a media company such as Liberty at the helm of F1 will change the way F1 media is produced and consumed?
I really don’t know how to answer this because no one knows their plan, but everyone seems to be excited and optimistic. I hope they embrace Lollipop and what I’m doing. I hope they realize that we need better images to be distributed to attract a bigger audience.
One of the biggest problems to me is that we have very little access to drivers. They’re highly paid athletes and representatives of both their teams and sport, but no one outside of the hardcore fan base knows what they look like. Most of the time they’re wearing sunglasses and a hat or a helmet. Honestly, how do we even know if it’s really Kimi or Fernando under the helmet and bolsters? How would we know? How can a new audience relate when they never see their faces? It’s hard for new fans to relate and as I’m sure you’ve experienced difficulty in explaining the sport and the rules, etc.
I’m trying to change that by taking formal portraits. I’ve shot the majority of the drivers, mechanics, team principals, engineers and former F1 world champions. This will be a bigger and bigger part of Lollipop.
Why do you choose to shoot using film with your Graflex camera?
Because it’s fun! When I went to Monaco in 2014, I thought it would be cool to shoot the oldest race on the calendar in a period machine, so I dusted off my 1913 Graflex 4×5 SLR and shot the weekend in black and white. It was very hard and I spent hours and hours loading and downloading the film. It wasn’t the best shoot but I shot enough good frames to encourage myself to bring it to the next race.
While digital cameras allow you to shoot an infinite number of images and more than 12 frames per second, I wanted to slow things down. Shooting film, along with its restrictions, helped me make better images because it limited me to 20 shots per session, forcing me to spend a lot more time looking, thinking and composing. Sometimes I don’t shoot more than a dozen frames. More than anything else is the quality of the images vs. digital. The color is richer and the black and white images have grain. There’s something very tactile about it. I love the process and like cooking, I prefer to chop my own vegetables. I’ve been known to do things the hard way, for better or for worse.
Which is your favorite shot that you have taken in F1? Tell us about how you shot it and why it was so special.
This changes from season to season. My first good image was an overhead shot of Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari exiting the garage at the Spanish GP. The composition, light, details of his hands, helmet, and the cockpit are perfect. There’s a huge satisfaction in a moment like this because so much of photography is anticipation and I got lucky that day.
In Abu Dhabi in 2014, I think I captured the best image of Lewis Hamilton winning the world championship. I arrived late at Parc Fermé after the race. At the last minute I was allowed to run across the track and from behind the cars I saw Lewis stand on the nose of his Mercedes and raise a Union Jack with his right hand and a peace sign with his left. You can see all the faces of the photographers and fans, it’s a great moment. I think that was the first time I felt like “one of the guys” – 20 races later.
Is there a fellow photographer in the sport that you admire and/or have gotten to know over the years?
I’m very social and consider 80% of the other photographers and journalists friends. I hang out with two Danes, a rowdy bunch of Serbians and Bosnians, some English, Italians, and French. Again, being the only American, I get my share of banter.
There are some great photographers, but they shoot for agencies, teams, news, or mass circulation. Because they need podium shots, the champagne spray, the crash into turn one, and the fist pumps, this limits their ability to really express themselves like I can.
I really admire some of the older guys whose work I’ve known for decades like Paul Henri-Cahier and Bernard Asset. They’re both true gentlemen and definitely make me feel welcome. I also admire a Spanish photographer named Miquel Liso and a Frenchman named Florent Gooden. Our work is different, but they’re taking an artful approach and have very distinctive styles.
What is the perfect image you wish to shoot?
I want to shoot classic, timeless portraits of every driver, mover, and shaker in F1. This will tell the story of the sport. For racing images, I’m trying to get into the helicopter to shoot Spa [Francorchamps]!