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What skill set do you need to curate an exhibition of photos? Do you need to be an adrenaline junkie? Do you need the neck muscles of a horse to withstand the g force taking a bend at 200 mph? Do you need to be able to pull a super-model at fifty paces?
I set out to the Getty Gallery in London’s west-end to find the answer. I had been invited by Nikon to see an exhibition of photographs of the British Grand Prix, curated by Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, those giants of the photographic world.
As I approached the gallery I saw a red carpet and a burly bouncer, this looked promising. Once ensconced inside, glass of champagne in hand, I scanned the room for Hamilton or Button and their inevitable glamorous entourage. Nope this crowd were more Jessops than Jenson, not a Pussy-Cat Doll in sight.
Still, now I could look at the photos without distraction, apart from the seemingly endless supply of delicious canapés.
The photos were arranged in chronological order, starting with black and white pictures of former racing heroes, right up to the modern day. There was a British bias, with pictures of Stirling moss, Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart and Graham Hill.
The old cars were more beautiful than todays and of course a lot more dangerous. They also had more character - like their drivers, think of the playboy James Hunt versus trainee accountant Sebastian Vettel.
These days it’s all going down the gym and consulting dieticians and psychologists and getting a good night’s sleep. Those days it was more night-club than gym, and champagne rather than an isotonic health drink. Why not? You might get killed in the next race.
There was a charming picture of Damon Hill aged 6 sitting in a racing car, possibly his Dads. I swear I used to have the same jumper. Nigel Mansell’s luxuriant moustache was worth revisiting, it’s a wonder he could get a helmet on.
I was pleased to see the focus of the exhibition was people rather than the cars. Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton must feel as I do that it’s the people that make a sport interesting. How they actually chose the images and the extent of their involvement no one seemed to know. On the face of it they had done a great job. From now on I will always think of them as a daring duo of curators.
Rather bizarrely this was the last night of the exhibition, so I can’t recommend you go. However Nikon have signed up to sponsoring the gallery for two years, so watch this space for exciting upcoming exhibitions. Apparently the next one is being curated by Katie Price and Paris Hilton…
Words and images by Martin Jordan.