on 14 February 2009
It used to be said that everybody knew what they were doing on hearing of the assassination of President Kennedy. Well, I don't, but I do remember, with a stark clarity, what I was doing on the afternoon of Sunday April 7th 1968 when I heard of Jim Clark's death. As a 12 year old who idolised the quiet Scottish genius, it took quite some time for it to really sink in.
Many books have been written about him in the years since, but this one is special because it concentrates on the images. Chronologically spanning his entire career literally from first to last, it covers just about everything though inevitably dwelling most on his numerous Formula One successes. Photos are in colour and monochrome throughout and printed on quality glossy paper. Captions by Quentin Spurring give insightful explanation of each image, while Peter Windsor contributes a thought provoking essay of his personal reminiscences by way of setting the scene.
The great thing about the 60s was that photographers were able to get so close to the action, unencumbered by guardrails or considerations of personal safety, thus giving their pictures an intimacy not possible today. Another boon was the prevalence of open face helmets, so we get to see the expression on drivers' faces as they manhandle cars amongst the trees and earth banks of some classic circuits.
The result is an amazing assemblage of fascinating images of a master at work in a variety of cars, together with many off track shots from pit and paddock, and one or two of the drivers at play, though sadly none from outside the racing circle. Quality ranges from good to superb, as is to be expected from images sourced mostly from LAT.
For some of us, many of these shots will induce personal memories of occasions we saw Clark in the flesh. I saw him race several times, but the shots at Snetterton in the Lotus Cortina are especially evocative to me because I have vivid memories of his flinging that car around the corners on three wheels as he attacked the big American muscle cars. The book is full of gems like that!
If I was forced to find a fault, perhaps I might have preferred to see a few less pin-sharp shots of Clark at speed in a F1 car and substitute a few more wider shots that include other cars and drivers to show more atmospheric colour. But this would be nit-picking in the extreme. The bottom line is that 'Jim Clark - A Photographic Portrait' is a classy celebration of one of the sport's greatest champions and I would heartily recommend it.