Article by Duurt Dijkman – Founder at MsportXtra | Photos by Mark Sutton – Photographer & founder of Sutton Images
In these days of social media, pictures and footage are easy to come by as most fans around the circuit have internet on their phones and will upload the events on their social media channels before you can as an official photographer. This wasn’t always the case and back in the days we would rely on those that were trackside, trying to give us the best idea of what was going on through pictures taken from the action, preferably from many different angles and parts of the circuit. Those pictures were taken by photographers that knew like no other how to capture the moments. Photographers are still enormously important in bringing the sport to the fans. True Trackside Legends if you ask me. One of them is the well known and respected photographer Mark Sutton. It so happens, he’s also a friend of MsportXtra so what better way to ask Mark if he’s up for a little Q&A.
“That year in 1983 I went to my first race shooting with my dad’s Practika camera”
Q1. You’ve been doing Formula 1 photography for many years now but what was it that made you pick up a camera and start in this line of work?
“Monaco is a very special place and my favorite of the year”
Q2. From a photographer point of view, do you have a favourite circuit where you can get the best access to take pictures?
Q3. F1 is one big circus and for those within it, all things are pretty much taken care of. But for the media, including yourself, things are often a bit different. How do you arrange your own accommodations for the weekend and do you have any tips for best spots?
Q4. I know you have a lovely family but being a photographer that travels along with F1, it must be hard sometimes. How do you combine your personal life with the professional life ?
Q5. If I’m correct, you’ve been doing this for 36 years and must have met a lot of different people. Being that close to drivers and other team members, did any friendships come out of your work? And what does such a friendship mean, even though we all know they also get out of bed, one leg at the time.
Q6. You’ve travelled the world and seen some of the most iconic racing tracks. Which racing track do you love the most, as a person, not as a photographer? And why?
Mark – I loved Indianapolis in the US as I love the history and banking and also I covered Le Mans 1985-1993 when sports cars where at its best I think, Jaguar/Porsche/Mercedes/Mazda etc… these were the golden years with the old pits and classic old track with no chicanes, it was so much easier to cover with less restrictions and once you knew your spots they were easy to locate every year.
Q7. For your work, you take pictures of beautiful shiny cars, awesome settings and you capture the action while it happens. That said, you also face the downside of the sport and must have taken lots of photos from accidents and other awful situations. What was the worst one and what does that do to you as a person?
“I started with black & white film, processing in a tank with chemicals and then printing in a tray watching the images appear”
Q8. As a trackside legend, people look up to you as being one of the pioneers in the sport we all love. Do you get many questions from newly photographers about what to do in certain situations or do you mentor others that want to learn the trade?
Mark – Yes I am always being asked ‘how can I be an F1 photographer’ and I say well I did 6 years apprenticeship and they don’t want to do that, they want it now. But I still suggest the same route personally, you do need the experience in my opinion. The F1 cars go at 200mph and to freeze cars at that speed you need experience no matter what other people say and also work on building your name and career. I started with black & white film, processing in a tank with chemicals and then printing in a tray watching the images appear in front of me, it gave me a huge buzz. Then I moved to colour and processing/duping and sending the photos all over the world, Sutton Images became the biggest agency in F1. Now it’s digital since about 2002 and I got my first camera at £10,000 which was crazy money, but I needed to stay ahead of the others and then I was the first to transmit images from the circuit directly from the camera in Bahrain 2014. Nowadays we send all images via 4G and with 5G coming things are going to change even more and I’m looking forward to the next step of technology #bringiton
Q9. With the uprise of social media, does that make your job harder? Or do you also use it to your advantage in finding out where to go for those important shots?
Q10. On a personal note. What has been your best photo?
Mark – My best photo – The Flying Finn, Adelaide 1993 – Mika Häkkinen
Q11. Final question. As a professional photographer, working in F1, is there anything you like to get off your chest? Changes that make your life easier? Certain safety aspects towards photographers? Tips for aspiring new motorsport photographers? Or anything unrelated to motorsport.
Mark – Its all about hard work as I said before, it looks the glamour job but its crazy hours and after 28 years in F1 its also about new circuits and countries. I love the fact we are going to Holland and Vietnam next year, this inspires me even more to continue and look for new angles. I worked on the Abu Dhabi circuit track building project 2007-2009 and this was just an amazing project to work on from desert Island to now one of the best circuits and facilities in the world, I love going back there every year knowing that I helped record the history and also I love the weather and people in Abu Dhabi, the welcome is amazing and will enjoy some days before the race relaxing and then the test and my last summer days before the season finishes. It’s a great place to end a crazy and busy season, but I still have a huge PASSION.
If you want to follow Mark on Twitter, check www.twitter.com/marksutton65 or on Instagram via www.instagram.com/F1SUTTON/.