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Interview with T. Taylor Warren, Part 1

Warren, T. Taylor (Thomas Taylor), 1925-2008
Wright, Christina
Date of Interview: 
Warren, T. Taylor (Thomas Taylor), 1925-2008; France, Bill, 1909-1992; NASCAR (Association); Daytona 500 (Automobile race); Stock car racing; Motorsports; Racetracks (Automobile racing); Sports photographers; Photography of sports; Photojournalism; Photography--Equipment and supplies; Hasselblad camera; Photography--Techniques; North Carolina--Charlotte; North Carolina--High Point; Virginia--Martinsville; Florida--Daytona Beach; Interviews (Sound recordings); Oral histories
T. Taylor Warren reflects on his life, his photography career, and the early days of photographing NASCAR racing. He recalls his budding interest in photography as a boy and describes his education at Rochester Institute of Technology and the teachers he met there. Mr. Warren explains how he began photographing stock car races and describes how his career developed over the years alongside the sport of stock car racing. He discusses in detail the craft of stock car photography from the techniques and procedures he developed to the different kinds of cameras he used in his work, most notably a Hasselblad medium format camera. He also speaks at length about the differences between sports photography and photography for advertising and publicity. From 1957 to 1971, Mr. Warren was the official photographer for Bill France Racing and he recounts his experiences working for the founder of NASCAR. Throughout the interview Mr. Warren also talks of the various companies he has worked for, including DuPont, Kodak, Alderman Studios, NASCAR; and his own photography business, Pictures Incorporated. Mr. Warren concludes by discussing how photography and the business of stock car racing photography in particular, has changed due to the Internet, digital cameras, and improvements in technology. He shares his opinions on how today’s photographers can capture higher-resolution images but may not create particularly compelling photographs due in part to the negligible cost of creating many images at a time with digital photography.
North Carolina--Charlotte; North Carolina--High Point; Virginia--Martinsville; New York (State)--Rochester; Florida--Daytona Beach; circa 1940 - 2005
Interview Setting: 
J. Murrey Atkins Library (University of North Carolina at Charlotte)
Motorsports Collection
Interview Audio: 
CW: Christina Wright
TW: Thomas Taylor Warren

(background noise by heavy machinery throughout interview)

Minidisc 1 begins.

CW: Today is December 7, 2005. This is Christina Wright interviewing T. Taylor Warren for the UNC Charlotte Oral History Archive. We’re in the J. Murrey Atkins Library at UNC Charlotte. Mr. Warren has been a professional photographer of NASCAR since the sport was in its infancy in 1948. He is still photographing NASCAR in his 80th year.

TW: (laughs)

CW: You were born, amazingly enough, in 1925. You don’t look as if you could be nearly eighty years old.

TW: (laughs)

CW: And I wondered if you could tell me something about your childhood growing up and your background. And whether there was anything in that created your interest in photography.

TW: Well, we were in a. This is pre-World War II. And things were much different then. We were in a small town. And we lived on what they called a truck farm at that time. We grew vegetables or, small crops. Not, not big wheat fields or anything like that.

CW: Could you tell me where the town was?

TW: It’s in Wyoming, Delaware. Which is in the middle of the state. We are about seven miles from Dover, the capital of the state. And we’d, we raised. My mother raised chickens. We raised, we had some apple trees and then we took those out, or my father did. Then we raised tomatoes. And back then you grew a lot of the things that you ate. So we raised potatoes and other things to eat in the winter. And then we had a vegetable garden in the summer. But it was small town. And consequently, we lived, it was a mile from our house to the school. So I walked to school since, at that time the buses wouldn’t pick up someone who lived that close to, the school. But and you were asking how I got interested in photography. We had, somehow I found in the house a box camera. And never did have film for it. But it intrigued me. And I would play with it some. And then, I guess, from that progressed to in high school. We had a camera club and I joined that. And this was just prior to the war, but we had, could get film. And I learned to develop film. And we didn’t have an enlarger. So I only could make contact prints. But, and I don’t remember who had the camera that we used because I didn’t have one. And later my brother gave me a, that’s when the Argus C3 first came out. And I would have dearly have loved to have had one. However, they were expensive. He gave me, called a Detrola, it used 127 film. Which was just about the same size as 35 millimeter. And we could develop it and make contact prints. And then I became. Well, it started out that our high school was having a class play. So I somehow or another interceded and went to see the photographer in the next town, which was the capital Dover. And had him come over and make pictures of the play. And then I peddled them for him. But, and in the process got friendly with him, and got more interested in photography. And he, I guess he took a liking to me. Anyhow, he had been to RIT [Rochester Institute of Technology]. Had studied there. And so he told me about that. And during the summer, I guess, must have been between the junior and senior year. He took me up Rochester and showed me the school. And introduced me to some of the people there. So then, I graduated in ’43, so that was all of people in my class, all the boys went off to service, and they wouldn’t take me because I had high blood pressure. So I completed, well, I didn’t. When I graduated, all the guys went off and they wouldn’t take me. So my brother was working for the DuPont Company and he had been transferred to the Hanford Project which was out in the state of Washington. And at that time, we didn’t know, no one knew what the Hanford Project was. But it later was released that it was the site at which they made the materials for the atomic bomb. And when he was, when I finished high school. Then he had me come out there and I worked at Hanford for the summer. And then in the fall I went to, I had already made applications to RIT and got my, was accepted because they didn’t have that many students. So. (laughs)

CW: Just out of interest, what were you doing that summer at Hanford?

TW: Well--

CW: What tasks where you set?

TW: They, well, my brother got me in. And I helped the doctors, pre-employment medical. They would bring groups of people. ‘Cause they were hiring just everybody they could get a hold of. And they’d run them through just to check to see if they were alive. (laughs) And I’d help the doctors. Just paperwork and, and gofer and all that in their office. Just walk them through, it wasn’t anything.

CW: Right.

TW: Any big physical exam. It was just to see if they were severely handicapped or anything. ‘Cause they needed the workers.

CW: Right, right. And was your brother’s job?

TW: He was a, he had studied civil engineering in University of Delaware. But in working for DuPont when they transferred him out there, he was in the transportation department. They handled all the, he was a supervisor, and they handled all the rolling stock. The dump trucks, and the bulldozers, and graders and stuff. I don’t know exactly what he did. But it was, he supervised the. I guess sent the men out and checked up on the equipment and all that--

CW: Right. And his name?

TW: Frank Warren.

CW: Right, right.

TW: And then from my enrollment in RIT, then I spent the, I got the first year through. The summer then I, worked, went. Since I already had a connection with DuPont. Then I got a job at the Louisville Ordinance Plant for DuPont the next summer. And was the photographer on that project. But I only stayed for the summer, I didn’t keep on ‘cause I went back to school. And then when I finished RIT, this fellow that I had been real friendly with in school had gone back to Chicago. And I had gone to the DuPont Company because at that time they had a paper manufacturing plant in Rochester, photographic paper, not just writing paper. But photographic paper. And I got a job in the sample print lab. We made sample prints to go out to the various camera shops. And, and for display. Some of them were, had eight by tens on up to forty by sixty. And so I learned quite a bit about handling all sizes of paper. But then he called me, this, the fellow from Chicago called me. And wanted me to come out and help him. And he was doing school photography and kidnapping. Kidnapping is where you go to a drug store, or auto parts, or department store, or some kind of a store. And they’ve advertised several days ahead. And at that time you didn’t have Wal-Mart’s and all that. So this was something special that you could have your picture made for free. And so we, and it was only for children. It wasn’t for adults. And so you’d have the mothers bring all the kids in. You’d make pictures of them. And then a week later or something they’d come back to look at the proofs and order. And so you had, I never did much selling. Mostly it was, I was just shooting. But then I worked in the lab processing and printing. And I’d go out and shoot. And then come back, and we’d process and print all the stuff. And then somebody would go pass it, proof it. Show the proofs. And (pause) those were, there were. We were based in Chicago. So we went up, went up into Wisconsin, Illinois. I don’t ever remember going to Indiana. But, and since I worked in the lab, I was, he and I were good buddies. So the two of us worked in lab. And then he had a couple of other photographers who would go out, way out. I’d go to some closer by, because if I was going to work in the lab I had to be available. And then after, later on after that initial thing. He got into the schools. He’d do high schools, and kindergarten. Grade schools, things of that kind. But the early part, with the kidnapping part. And that was the term that we used. And then.

CW: What was the name of that business?

TW: Northwest Color Lab.

CW: Mm-hum.

TW: ‘Cause he was in the northwestern part of the city. But then, and at that time when I first went to work with him. He’d put me up. They had a, his father owned a three story building, three story house. And he and his wife lived on the first floor. And his mother and father lived on the second floor. So they had a third floor, and that’s where I went. And then while I was there, I had been going with this girl in RIT the last part of the year before I graduated. And I was still in contact with her. And then we got married, and we lived on the third floor. But after a couple of years of that, he was very demanding. And so, he would come to the bottom of the stairs and whistle. And I was supposed to come on down and work in the darkroom helping with stuff. And I kind of got tired and so I had a fellow in Milwaukee that wanted me to come and run a color lab for him. And so I left him and went to Milwaukee and spent about a year and a half in the color lab up there doing processing and printing. ‘Cause I didn’t. In Milwaukee I didn’t have to go out to shoot. He had photographers who were on the road for him. And so I just stayed in the lab and worked there. But that was when, and we were married. That was where I found I was still, my brother was back in D.C. working at that time. And he had written that, or he and his wife. His wife mostly wrote the letters. Wrote that he was racing a, at that time they called it a Roaring Roadster. It was an open, like a convertible. And I’m not sure how much he was driving, but he had, he was working on it. And he was, I knew he was mechanically inclined ‘cause he had always worked on cars and messed with them. But he was keeping one up at least. See I’m trying to think of who he worked for. He worked for another company. So this was just a more or less a hobby and a part time thing. But when he wrote that letter, they advertised at the Milwaukee fair grounds that they were going to have a race with Roaring Roadsters. So my wife and I went that first night and watched from the grandstand. Then when I got back to the lab the next day I was talking to one of the photographers at the lab who had. He said, “Oh, I’ve been there. I can. Next race I’ll take you out and I can get you in.” So when it, next race came up, he took me out there. And of course I carried a camera. And we shot three or four pictures. But when we got back to the lab he said, “Now print them up and take them out there and you can sign in yourself.” ‘Cause he had signed me in through the back gate, through like the competitors. So I printed my pictures up and carried ‘em out there and signed in like big time. From then on that I was, could sign in from the back gate. Then it got to be. I don’t remember how long. But I got to make an extra, maybe somebody. The first that I photographed was a midget race. ‘Cause they ran midgets and the roaring roadsters on the. They had a small track inside the Milwaukee mile. And so, I don’t remember when I started selling prints. I guess somebody asked me could they get one. And I’d print them up and take them out. And then from there, that guy ran out of money and he closed his lab. So then I went back to see, I went back to a lab down near Gary, Indiana, which was just outside Chicago. And I worked there, but anyhow I’d gotten hooked on racing. And so I’d go to, to Blue Island. Which was a track further down which is no longer in existence. But they ran midgets and stock cars. And I’d go out for the stock cars. And then I’d, figured out I could take prints and sell them. So I started selling them there.

CW: Was your fascination with racing, with the races themselves or taking pictures of the races do you think? Was the taking pictures just a vehicle to get you in?

TW: No, ‘cause really it was more interest, more in taking the pictures. ‘Cause you’re really if you’re watching. If you’re trying to photograph, you’re watching what’s happening in front of you. You’re not watching the entire race. And you, you lose track of what’s behind you. ‘Cause you don’t follow them around. You keep watching what’s coming. And then I guess maybe the selling them has a big draw too. ‘Cause I was making a little extra money.

CW: Can, can you describe how you would work in those very early days? You said you’d come in sort of through the back door where everybody comes who’s involved in the race.

TW: Yeah.

CW: With your cameras--

TW: By gate--

CW: And everything. Uh-huh. And what would happen after that?

TW: Well, you’d wonder through the pits. In the early days, you didn’t shoot, or at least I didn’t, the. Too much of, well, you didn’t shoot anything of people working on cars and all. You’d make set up shots, have them pose beside the car. Because that was something that they would buy. And you’d make some of those, and if you had prints from the week before you’d take those along and show them to sell. And then when the race started, you’d go out probably to a turn. ‘Cause that’s usually where there was going to be a wreck or something would happen. And you’d stand out there and make pictures of. You didn’t make that many pictures. If you made six or eight, ten pictures was ‘bout all. In the early days, that’s about all you’d make. ‘Cause you were shooting four by five. And you were using cut film. Unless you were really fluent with money and could by a film pack. ‘Cause film packs were about half again more than cut film. Now you, if you had cut film you had to have a number of holders to use it. Because you only had two sheets per holder. And in those days you’re using flash bulbs, so every time you made a shot you had to change bulbs. And that got expensive. So you didn’t waste material.

CW: Mm-hum.

TW: Everything counted.

CW: And this was black and white film?

TW: Black and white, yeah.

CW: Did you ever use color on, on, in these early days?

TW: In the early days they didn’t have any. The only color they had in the studio where it was controlled conditions. And we used. Well, with our kidnapping and stuff we used color. But it was very slow speed. And you had, we had the electronic flash for the kids. So you had enough light. Whereas, slow speed. Most of this racing was at night. And the flash bulb wouldn’t do much good for that material.

CW: Right, and the speed of the car.

TW: And, yeah. Everything. The flashbulb was good for black and white because you could compensate when you processed it, you increase the speed.

CW: What kind of a camera did you have for this?

TW: Four-by-fives, speed graphic.

CW: Was that what everybody used at the time?

TW: Yeah, yeah. Well that was at, I had. I didn’t have a speed graphic because they cost more. I had what they called a Busch Pressman. Which was a metal body camera that competition had come out with for the speed graphic. And didn’t cost quite as much. I’ve forgot what the price was. But it had the same controls. It was just what they call nowadays a knockoff. It was competition to the speed graphic. And the speed graphics were made by the Graflex Corporation in Rochester. And their building, their factory, was only couple of blocks from RIT. So that. (pause) And that wasn’t, that was the only camera that there was. (laughs)

CW: Mm-hum. Right.

TW: And, well they had come up with thirty-five millimeter. But it was in its infancy. And the German cameras were better than anything else. And the quality of the film was not that good. So it was easier to use four or five than it was to. I didn’t get into the thirty-five millimeter format until later on. Much later. But--

CW: What would you say was the, at this time, using the four-by-five was the (microphone interruption) art of doing this? What made a good picture? What did you bring to it, what did you learn from doing this?

TW: Well, most of the stuff I was doing was (clears throat) if you were doing the posed shot. Is to get the whole car in and the driver. And if you’re doing the action stuff, it was a car out of control, sliding sideways, or rolling over. And you didn’t, you didn’t shoot. ‘Cause you only had one shot. You waited ‘til the prime peak of the action. You didn’t just shoot and hope, you waited.

CW: Considering how fast the cars are going, that must have been really hard to judge.

TW: Well, they weren’t going that fast in those days. They weren’t. It was because you had to, you had to foresee that he was in trouble and that he was going to cause a mistake. He was either going to roll or he was gonna spin out. Or something of that kind. So you waited until you were sure that he was in, or you thought that he was in the prime of action. You didn’t, just because he wobbled a little bit you didn’t press the shutter because you were going to waste film then.

CW: So how many do you think you would take on one race? How many pictures?

TW: Well in the early, well like I say, six, eight, ten. According to how many holders you had. And each one was two shots. So and the holder is about not quite a half inch thick. So they take up a lot space. Plus your bulbs. You had to have pocket of bulbs. And it wasn’t until much later they came up with. Well, like I say, if you had film packs. There were twelve sheets in that but they cost more. The pack contained the film and you pulled a tab out. And would put in a fresh piece in the front. And then when I graduated to two and a quarter. Two and a quarter the square format the roll flex. You had twelve on a roll then. So you were really. Prior to that I had acquired a bunch of holders. I probably had twenty or so holders. Twenty-five holders. But the Graflex Company had come up with a new type of carrier that had six sheets of film loaded in one holder. And you had a, I called them a push-pull-click-click ‘cause you’d pull the slide out and that would somehow. I’ve forgotten now exactly how it worked. But it would pull your exposed sheet and put it behind all the rest so that the, you could keep shooting six shots. But it took the time to pull and push back to get the fresh film in place. But.

CW: Did you know when you had one that you would be able to sell? Since that would be your major goal I guess? Could you feel it sort of that that would be a good one.

TW: Well, yeah. You didn’t waste film.

CW: Mm-hum.

TW: You only had so many sheets of film with you. So you made every one count. You didn’t punch the button and say “ooh, well maybe that one wasn’t any good”. And when I was at RIT, one of my instructors, well the man that taught airbrush, gave us tidbits of information. And he had been a reporter, a newspaper photographer. And he said, “You never use up all your film on the assignment or the wreck or whatever you’re shooting. You save one sheet, because on the way home you may see some great wreck that you need a shot of.”

CW: Mm-hum.

TW: And so you always carried one home with you just in case that.

CW: And you continued to do that?

TW: Well. (laughs) Tried to yeah.

CW: Did it ever happen?

TW: No, no.

CW: (laughs)

TW: Because by the time I. Well, you kind of paced yourself on how much you shot during the race. You didn’t, if it looked like the guy was going to, you probably missed some good ones. But if it looked like he was going to spin out or something, you’d think “well, is that going to be a great shot or is it just going to spin out and not do anything that will be spectacular?”

CW: Mm-hum.

TW: And after a while, after you followed the, that group of people. You knew who was likely to create a, I call them spectacular--

CW: Mm-hum.

TW: You know, get in trouble and mess up. But if you’re shooting new people, you just kinda keep watching them. I admit that now days I don’t watch as closely as I used to, because the cars don’t. They, they’re managed to correct. Back then a lot of it was on dirt, and the track would be rough or have some holes or something. And if they got sideways, if they lost it and the tail end came around, they might hit a hole and it would roll them over, flip over. Or they would break a wheel or something that they couldn’t recover from. But and I, to this day, I don’t use a motor drive. Because I feel that you might as well use a video camera or movie camera and shoot it and then pick out. And that’s what a lot of the present day photographers do. They use motor drive and then they pick one or two out of the whole sequence that they’ve made. And, “Oh I’ve got a great one.” Well, yeah.

CW: Mm-hum.

TW: But if you’re watching and trying to make that particular, the prime of that incident. Then you have to keep watching it closely and know what’s happening.

CW: I did want to back up a little bit. You were mentioning about your professor at the, Rochester Institute of Technology.

TW: Mm-hum.

CW: And I wanted you to tell me a little bit more about your education there. Because that was the basis for your future career. You explained how you got to be there. But what was it like? You were there for two years all together.

TW: Well, RIT was a technical school. My mother had wanted me to go to the University of Delaware and I had told her there isn’t any use because I won’t study. I won’t, won’t be able to pass. My brother had been a brain. And he had, well, he had gone there and studied civil engineering, that’s a surveyor. But I had not, looking back at it, I had not developed the proper study habit. I just got through high school. And anyhow, at RIT. We had, we had everything. You had math and English and psychology, chemistry, and physics. It was a well-rounded course. And what I used to tell people, it didn’t make me any smarter but it put me further ahead to getting a job. Because when I got out of RIT, when I finished, completed, I could have gone. Well I went to DuPont and worked in a sample print lab. I could have gone most any place. What I really, what I wanted to do with my life was to become a tech rep. The big photo companies at that time used to hire people to go out, they’d be in a certain area, and they would be the representative for the company. But they would go around to the studios and the labs. And if they had problems they would. Mm, can’t think of the word. Research what they needed to do to correct the problem.

CW: Right.

TW: And get them back on track. And at first I felt that I needed practical experience to be able to do that properly. And I got sidetracked, I never did get to be a tech rep. Because by the time that I thought I was good enough for that, they had cut back down on sending people out. Paying somebody full time to go to studios and labs. Well, I guess a number of things. Because I was always working and had a good job as far as I enjoyed what I was doing. And then I got wound up in the racing stuff. And that took a lot of time too.

CW: Was there anybody at, in Rochester who inspired you, do you think? (microphone interruption) Who you drew on a lot in your career? Or did that come later?

TW: What, well? Inspired me as far as how?

CW: In terms of, of taking, photographing things.

TW: Well, I admired all of the instructors at RIT. There wasn’t any particular one. There was a. I had a number of them that I felt that were. We had a, I can’t think of his first name, Brim. We called him Pop Brim. Who was, he didn’t really teach anything. He just had an office there because he’d been there so long. But he was the one who invented the panoramic camera. And he made, someplace they still have it, he made a picture of our class where he’d. You stand in one place and when he tells you run over to the other end and line up again so you have a double image of each person in the one picture. And then there was a Dr. Throndson who was, taught chemistry. And he said that he only got from two to four hours of sleep at night. He studied and worked on things. And then of course the, the dean C.B. Neblette. Who had written a thick tome on photography all the way from the first person that had a dark room with a hole in the curtain and it showed the image on the wall. He explained all that and went all the way through. He taught, he taught sensitometry, which is the exposure and development chemistry of film. You, the mathematical part of it. You give a certain amount of exposure and a certain amount of development and you get a certain density on the film. And it’s all very, it’s all tied together and very scientific. And I was trying to think, there were. I can’t remember the other guy, the guy that taught the color theory. I didn’t take color, the workshop part of it. It just taught the theory of color photography. Because I specialized in portrait. We had a man come from, he was from Cleveland, a Fred Bill. Who came and taught the portrait photography classes. But my feeling was that I was way ahead of someone that had apprenticed in a studio or lab. Well, at that time you didn’t have one-hour labs. You only had, the studio did everything. So that if you apprenticed you learned very slowly and you didn’t learn the correct things. Later on, I, well after I had been through a couple of labs, three or four. I was in, I left Chicago or Gary and moved to Kansas City to run a, well like what would be called a one-hour lab. You had the chemistry and you did work for outside people. You didn’t have a studio or anything. It was strictly a lab. And from there, the Kodak Company, the people recommended me for a job at Alderman Studios in High Point. And that’s how I got east was through that.

CW: What point was this? What year approximately?

TW: Well, I came east in ‘51, the fall of ‘51.

CW: And you’d been filming NASCAR types of races. Or at least not NASCAR--

TW: Racing--

CW: Racing--

TW: In the Midwest, you had midgets, sprints, and Indy cars and some stock. In Kansas City I’d gotten, tied up with a guy at a garage. He had a service station, it wasn’t a garage. Well, he worked on stuff. But he had a service station. And I had gone past and seen the racecar sitting there. And it was a stock car, but he had a number on it. And so I stopped. And from that I got friendly with him. And the fall that I left, well it was after the racing season, and I had been to High Point. But, and talked about the job. But before I left and all he had told me that the next year when the racing season came up. He would keep the car up for me if I would drive it. His son had been driving it and his son was going to do something else. So he asked me if I would drive the racecar and he would keep it up for me. So then I moved to High Point, so that blew that.

CW: So now, did you have an interest in driving the car then? Were you drawn?--

TW: Sure yeah.

CW: To the sport? ‘Cause you want to drive the cars.

TW: Yeah.

CW: Did you have any experience in this early period of driving any of these sports, any of these racecars?

TW: Not. No, I hadn’t, I had driven around the track. Because in those days after the race was over, you drove around the track some just too.

CW: In what kind of car?

TW: In a road car.

CW: Mm-hum.

TW: But these were all, these were all road cars. You know, they were tuned up. But they weren’t highly sophisticated like they are now.

CW: Did he see you driving? Did he experience you behind the wheel?

TW: No, not racing. I guess he figured I was enough of a daredevil (laughs) I’d do alright or something. And no I hadn’t driven anything. I had, like I say, I had driven around the track and I had driven on the highway. But those days, it didn’t matter if you could drive. If you could keep it between the fences--

CW: Do you ever regret not having gone through that?

TW: Not, in a way yes. I think well, I might have made more money. But then I might, might have been injured. Rolled over and been injured. And back in those days, people would get killed. They didn’t have the safety features they do now. So I don’t know really whether I would have made a driver or not. But it was in the early days so, they didn’t make the big bucks that they do now. But I always thought, well, if I had gotten into the driving. My brother would, the two of us could have teamed up. He could have built the cars, or we could have built them together and he would have maintained them so.

CW: What happened to your brother’s roadster during this period?

TW: Well I guess. He was having other people drive it. So consequently, I guess they wrecked it too much for him. And it just kind of disappeared--

CW: Didn’t win any races?

TW: Well, no. And, and it just. The cost got more than, than he wanted to mess with. He, in later years, he did, he was working on one. Building a modified. And it never did get on the track. But he had some, this was early on, he had some ideas that were innovative at the time. And now that they use them. He was going to put the independent rear suspension, which nobody did at the time, it was all locked down. Just the, he had a lot of ideas that, that he could have. Or would have been great if he had gotten them into practice. ‘Cause now they’re using that same type of stuff.

CW: Right.

TW: So.

CW: What was the job that you got in High Point?

TW: Oh I was, I. At that time Alderman Studios was a. Well I guess they were the only, only big furniture photographer, in the area. There were other smaller ones, but they were a big one. And they were doing color work, and they wanted me to. Hired me to set up the color lab to process and we, we did make prints later on. We made dye transfers. But I was to set up the color lab and run that. And let’s see. They. (pause) I came in to set up the lab and then, then we got into making prints. But they, we were shooting eight by ten color film. And so it was, you’d make a batch of film for a run. And because the, you’d make a studio set-up and the guys would shoot the film. And then they’d want to look at it as soon as possible so they’d know whether to tear the set-up down. And so we, they’d bring the film and I’d run it right away. And, they’d you’d call them as soon as it was out of the chemistry and they’d come and look at it and check to see if it was what they wanted. If everything was right. And then they can tear down their setup. But then after it got, that was after got with. Color film, and after I got that setup then they set up to make color prints. And that was made with a dye transfer process. At one time, we had five people making color prints. But it was, it’s a slow process because it’s three different sheets of material that apply the dye on the paper. And then we had four people transferring and one person keeping everything up. And--

CW: Were there very few of these centers around the country that could do this? Was this, the technology new?

TW: There were probably three or four.

CW: In the whole of the United States?

TW: On the east coast. Now I’m not sure, there was one in Chicago. There were three on the east coast. One in Chicago. There were probably one or two in California. But the prime furniture stuff was, was on the east coast. And, so we, and you didn’t just make a pretty print. It had to match the color of the furniture. So it was very sophisticated as far as you’d keep working to make a print. Then later, after I left them, then they got into the type C print which is where it ran through a machine. They’d bought the machinery. But then while I was there they got into a printing press. And I at one time, went, went to Philadelphia to check and then I made a report on whether it would be feasible to set up a printing press. And they bought one. They’d pull proofs and then they would give the plates to another printing house to run, to make the production run. And it was all very, very technical.

CW: Mm-hum. And cutting edge by the sound of it.

TW: At that time, yeah.

CW: Mm-hum.

TW: Yeah. But--

CW: Meanwhile, were you moonlighting with the racecar photographs?

TW: Yep! Yeah. (laughs) And they very much did not like it. Well….

CW: Were you using any of their equipment to do that or?

TW: At one time I did, yeah. I’d sneak back in at night and do my prints in their lab. Because I didn’t have a lab. We lived in a trailer and so I didn’t have a lab to work in. And so I’d go back and use their enlarger and make my prints. And I guess they knew about it, but nothing was said for quite some time. But then when they finally. What would happen would be I’d go off on a Friday night and not get back ‘til Sunday night. So I’d be pretty tired on Monday. And they didn’t much appreciate that. Now I can understand. But I was young and foolish. And. (laughs)

CW: So where were you going to? Which races were you going to?

TW: Wherever they ran one that weekend. And these were all Grand National, they now call them the Cup Race. But they were Grand National. That was the first name that Bill gave the late model, they called them late model stock cars because they were the new cars really is what is was. And he got the name from the English horse racing that used the thoroughbreds and called them Grand Nationals. And he got that name that way. ‘Cause he was, this was supposed to have been the thoroughbred racing thing.

CW: Right.

TW: And he was competing with the Indianapolis cars. ’Cause Indianapolis was the prime open wheel, specially built, car at that time. They were very sophisticated cars. The Indy cars were. Now the sprint cars were a smaller version of the Indy. And a midget of course was a small, very small thing. Bigger than, it used the V8 engine, sixty horsepower. But it was bigger than what would be go-karts and stuff now. They didn’t have go-karts then. There were only midgets, and sprints, and Indy. And the Indy was a big. I can’t remember what the horsepower of the Indy car was. But it was, it was a big engine and I don’t know, a large car. They had certain specifications for it. But it was not, you know, not like a midget or a sprint.

CW: Right.

TW: And they only ran those on the. I think most of the Indy cars ran on, on mile or bigger. I don’t think they ran any half-mile tracks. I’m not sure.

CW: Mm-hum. Can, can you describe one of these weekends? A, a typical weekend? I’m assuming this is the 1950s?

TW: Mm-hum.

CW: And, and so where typically? Well, you said you could go anywhere, wherever there was a race. But?

TW: Well, I’d, at Alderman we had regular, hours. So you can get off at five o’clock, and I would. If we were going off, way off, like Langhorne, we’d probably leave that night, Friday night. So I’d go home and throw some clothes in a bag and my camera gear. And if I was going to ride with somebody, I’d go wherever they were and meet them. And climb in the car--

CW: Did you often go with somebody else?

TW: Yeah, quite a bit. I’d go with either a mechanic, or a car owner, or a driver. Just according to who was, which one I was hanging out with at the time.

CW: Not usually another photographer?

TW: No, ‘cause at that time there weren’t many photographers. I was just about, there might be one or two more photographers at the track mostly. I’d be the only one--

CW: How did you come to meet the engineers, and the drivers, and everything? To go with them? Or would you initially go by yourself?--

TW: Well, I initially went by myself. But then, you know, you’d find out where people lived and where they were based. And you’d say, “Can I ride with you?” And then I’d get friendly with them, and I guess I’d have to ask. But it was a case of they took me along.

CW: Mm-hum. You still using the four-by-five camera? Or had you?

TW: Mm, yeah--

CW: Had you adjusted your camera by then?

TW: Yeah, no. It wasn’t until that I started working at Daytona that I used the Rollei, the two and a quarter. No that was, and it had a, I didn’t have too much clothing. Maybe a change of clothes, ‘cause the camera case took up space. And if a guy was going to take a couple or so other people with him for help, if he was the driver and he was going to take a couple of mechanics. There wasn’t too much room in the car.

CW: Right.

TW: If he was towing a racecar, you could put it in the racecar. But it was, you were limited for space so you didn’t take a lot of clothing. And (pause) in my, like I say, it varied from drivers, to mechanics, to car owners. According who was going and had room. And I’m sure I was turned down, I don’t remember any, turned me down that I’d have to drive. And then sometimes I remember I’ve driven to Atlanta several times and taken people with me. ‘Cause that was, that’s a long trip. Hmm, six hours, something like that to drive down. So it was a good, long haul.

CW: So would you see anything on Friday night? You’d get there too late generally--

TW: Oh it’d be--

CW: Speaking ( ).

TW: Early morning. And if, I guess they’d get a room. You may crash for just an hour, couple of hours or something. But then you’d go to the racetrack and get ready for qualifying, practice and qualifying. And, and ‘cause they’re going to run on Sunday. And then you’re going to come home Sunday night. So, it was a busy weekend. There was, there wasn’t any. And you didn’t, you had a, well like a Saturday night you may have a little party. It wasn’t a you know big, ‘cause you were going to have to get up and get at it. And you need to rest so that when you left on Sunday you’d have. You know you’d be enough rested so you could get home.

CW: Mm-hum. And work the next day.

TW: Yeah, yeah.

CW: (laughs) So now you spent the whole time though at the racetrack. Were you taking pictures this whole time or did you keep the pictures for the race?

TW: No, you only did the, you only did the race. You know, if there were somebody had a new car or new driver or something you’d make those. But you, like I say, with a four by five you didn’t waste film. You pick and choose what, what pictures you make so you don’t run out of film before the race is over.

CW: So you must have really enjoyed being there, and watching, and observing, and taking in the atmosphere.

TW: Well, yeah it wasn’t a chore. Or I wouldn’t have gone, you know. And particularly when the company didn’t much want me to go. You’re kind of--

CW: Never mind your wife. (laughs)

TW: Well, she doesn’t, she didn’t say anything. Or at least vocally, now she might not have. I don’t know what she thought. But she never did say anything, and she still, we’re still together. (laughs) But.

CW: Do you think by spending a long time there, not just going in on Sunday and taking pictures of the races. You got to understand the sport a lot more and therefore that enriched your photographs? Or is that what other photographers did? I know you said you were just one of the few. But did, did the photographers who came along, did they stay all weekend and be involved all weekend?

TW: No, ‘cause mostly they would be local people and they could come out on a Sunday. Now I don’t remember seeing other people around. At Bowman Gray there was, one other, one other guy. But most places I don’t remember seeing them. And if they came, they were probably local and so they’d come out at race time and maybe the, the papers back then didn’t really assign somebody to cover it because all the publicity had to be generated from the racetrack itself. I mean the, PR man or well they didn’t. That was how I got hooked up with NASCAR was through the PR man. And he generated the stories and the artwork for the papers ‘cause they weren’t going to send somebody to cover and to get art and stuff. But--

CW: You were really ahead of your time.

TW: Probably yeah.

CW: Yeah.

TW: Yeah.

CW: Who was the market for your photographs at this time before you got hooked up, you know with any agencies or anything? Who?--

TW: ( ).

CW: How did you sell the photographs?

TW: To the drivers and the mechanics. You, you’d make a picture, like if. If you had a picture of a wreck you’d make a print and, “Hey you want to buy a print?”

CW: Did drivers typically like to get pictures of them wrecked? Was it interesting for them?--

TW: There wasn’t any, if they had money they would probably buy them. But they didn’t really, they weren’t going to search you out to get them. But if you came by and they had the money, they would probably get them because. I guess it was a, an ego thing. They wanted to see what they had done. And, and you know how it affected them. Or you know, “Oh this is when I was so and so.” And they probably didn’t have any other pictures. I’ve seen somewhere they made them in front of the shop. Just before they left, they’d stand beside the car or something. But there weren’t that many pictures being made back then. It wasn’t like nowadays. Because once you made a roll of film, or exposed a roll of film. You’d have to take it to the studio. There wasn’t a one-hour labs like there are now that you can just go to any corner drug store and drop it in. You either went to a studio or a drug store and it’d be back in a week or something.

CW: How did you work it out? ‘Cause you were taking pictures, a lot of them on Sunday. Probably all of them on Sunday. And then you’d be going back to process them. When would you get back to see those drivers again? When would you?--

TW: The next race--

CW: The next race, ‘cause they’d all be there the same time--

TW: Yeah.

CW: Yeah.

TW: If it was like the Grand Nationals, most of the same ones traveled. Now if you didn’t see them the next week, the week after they’d show. It’s according to if they had wrecked or something then it might be a week or so before you’d see them. Or that, and near the end of the season they might run out of money so they couldn’t afford to come. You know, couldn’t, couldn’t buy pieces for the car or whatever. You’d just. It was a case of. You made the prints and then hoped that they’d, you’d catch them at the next race. You didn’t try to mail them to them unless. Well, I don’t remember anybody ever having me mail them. Now they, they will. But back then they didn’t.

CW: Did you break even? Did you make money?

TW: At one time, I made money. ‘Cause I very carefully kept track of how much is sold and how much it cost to go and all. But, and like when we were in Chicago and I was shooting Soldiers Field. I’d peddle stuff in the pits and I made money. Then when I moved to, I guess I moved to Kansas City, I was making, I wasn’t making a whole lot, but I was, I was making instead of spending. And then when I came east, I was selling more. Let’s see. There were two or three years that I made a profit. And then the, the I think the last year that I tried to sell them. I took in a thousand dollars, but it cost me almost that much to go. So I decided it wasn’t worth it to try and peddle. Because it was a lot of work. And the, in the later part the worst was, I was shooting stuff and making prints but not selling them. I mean, the people didn’t want them. They were getting, it was getting too easy to get prints. And people were doing them, shooting them for them and giving them to them and stuff. So there wasn’t the market for, for prints.

CW: (microphone interruption) What was the last year you did it? Do you remember?

TW: I don’t remember what it was.

CW: Do you remember what you charged for the prints?

TW: Well at first they started out at fifty cents a piece for an eight by ten. Then they went to seventy-five, and then a dollar. And that was the last price I got was a dollar for an eight by ten.

CW: And that was within the fifties? 1950s?

TW: Yeah, mm-hum.

CW: And, did you? Were you allowed free access pretty much to anywhere you wanted to go?--

TW: Yeah.

CW: On the track?

TW: Yeah. Once--

CW: And you’d hang out by the pits mainly? Or? Where were you? Oh you said you took pictures on the bend. So would you be in the infield or did you?

TW: Oh yeah I was in the infield. Yeah, I’d sign in and then go anyplace I wanted to. But it, in those days. Well, because I was. Well, I was working with Houston. Houston Lawing, who was publicity, Bill’s publicity director, publicity man. I guess I was a kind of a fixture. ‘Cause I’d go out and help them out on the track when they’d have a wreck and need to clean up and stuff. I’d go out and help pick up stuff and, and I didn’t get a broom and all, but I’d help.

CW: Now when did you get this job? So this was moving on from the lab that you were working for?

TW: Well, part of it was when I was still working at Alderman. But then, then when.

CW: They must have been very pleased with that then. (laughs)

TW: No not really, anything but.

CW: (laughs)

TW: Well, in fact they fired me one time and then my wife went and talked and got me back in. But then when I did, Houston offered to hire me and, and pay me a weekly salary. That was in ‘56 I guess, ‘57, something like that. Right in there. Anyhow, I did. I worked for Bill France racing then. And then from there, that’s when in ‘57 they started. I had been going to Daytona and working down there and they paid me down there. But I was on vacation from the studio, from Alderman. But then it just worked up that they could hire me and Houston hired me full time. And from the time that Bowman Gray and the races around here were over, there was about a month there that before I would go to Daytona. Maybe six weeks or something before I would go to Daytona for the preliminaries for the races down there.

CW: Mm-hum.

TW: And--

CW: What was that initial job then that you got with Bill France while you were still working for the lab? What exactly? Was it the same thing? You were taking pictures of the drivers and the wrecks?--

TW: Yeah, yeah--

CW: And how were they using the pictures?--

TW: Well, they--

CW: For their own advertising?--

TW: All publicity and advertising. And, yeah. And the program. And.

CW: Was there anybody else doing that at this time? Were you one of several photographers? Or you the one?

TW: Not for them. I was the “it” for Bill France racing. Now, there were other people. Partially that’s probably why I wasn’t selling so much ‘cause there were, couple of other people were shooting pictures. And giving or selling pictures to drivers. But then I got hooked up with Houston. And he was paying me for the stuff that I was shooting ‘cause they were using it for publicity and for a program. And they needed all these. Well, the program used a lot of them. And publicity because like I say, they’d make a, he’d write a story and then they’d send art work with it and hope the paper would run both. A lot of the, then the early, the first ones. He’d take a race scene where there were a number of cars in it, and he’d put what we’d call round heads. He’d take a head shot of a driver. Cut it out in a circle and paste it on this race scene. And so you’d have the drivers and then the caption would be, these drivers will be at so and so. And that was the art. And if he had a story then it might relate to some, one of the drivers. Or about the scene. The race scene of whatever.

CW: How much control did you have over presentation of the artwork? ‘Cause that was your photographs being used. I assumed--

TW: No, I didn’t.

CW: Or they weren’t?

TW: I just, I just shot the stuff and printed. And then, and then he used what he thought would work for that particular thing. I mean, that story or that. According to what he wanted to do. You know, how he wanted to get it in the paper.

CW: Did you increase the number of pictures you were taking now? You, presumably they supplied all the supplies. I assume they did. Maybe, maybe not?

TW: Well, I bought them. Yeah, I got money. But, yeah. I took a few more. But it wasn’t until. Well, it wasn’t until the. I can’t think of the name of the holder now, the push-pull-click-click. The one that had six sheets in it. It wasn’t until that that came along that I began to shoot a whole lot more. ‘Cause, like I say, if you only had a holder with two sheets. You had too many holders. Even though I had a lot of them. And then it wasn’t until, I was working at Daytona. That I moved into, two and a quarter, the Rollei. And then on up to the Hasselblad. And of course with that you had a roll with twelve. So you had a small roll that you could carry in your pocket. And then by that time I had an electronic flash, so you didn't have to carry flashbulbs.

CW: What was that period?

TW: Mm-hum. That was in the. (pause) I guess. Probably from, from ‘55, ‘56, on. That moved up to the two and a quarter and stuff. ‘56 probably.

CW: Mm-hum.

TW: And then, then I didn’t use. You can’t carry but a certain amount of stuff. And I didn’t, you know. The four by five is a one-hand thing. You got to carry it in your hand. You can’t carry it around your neck or anything. That, it was. It wasn’t until the, the two and a quarter that you really shot a whole lot of stuff. And even though when, at Daytona when I worked at the track, you shot a lot of stuff and we printed it all. But it all got used during the year. Because they would send more than one print. They would not, like in the early time, you’d only send the paper one print. Even though you’d put the little round heads on it, you’d only send one print. You didn’t sent them two or three to pick from. But then later the publicity evolved such you sent two or three prints and let them decide what they wanted to run or how they wanted to run it.

CW: Right.

TW: But.

CW: When did your job become full time and you stopped working at the lab?

TW: ‘56. ‘Cause I was at Alderman for five years.

CW: Mm-hum.

TW: I went in ‘51, well fall of ‘51. And then I guess fall of ‘56, ‘57. I moved up too. Working for Bill. ‘Cause it was, well, they were making. They were getting enough, more people at the races that they could afford to, to. And I guess at that time he was considering building the big speedway. And so he needed, more publicity and more, more opportunity for photographic work.

CW: Mm-hum. How long did you stay with that, with Bill’s organization?

TW: ‘Til ‘71.

CW: Right. So you were there a long time.

TW: Yeah.

CW: Yeah.

TW: Yeah.

CW: So what was it like? Did you, did you move down to Daytona at that time.

TW: Yeah, well I moved down in. (pause) Summer I guess it was. ‘Cause I was at the track while they were finishing up the work on it.

CW: Mm-hum.

TW: And, ‘cause I did a lot of the photography of the construction of the thing.

CW: Mm-hum.

TW: Not in the middle of the summer, it was in the fall when they were doing the. The finishing and then the paving and the stands and all that stuff. And that’s when I was really, really busy recording all that construction.

CW: So you took? Now you weren’t just taking pictures of the races and the drivers. You were taking pictures of everything.

TW: Yeah, yeah. ‘Cause, they didn’t. See, in Daytona, the only track was the beach or this new speedway thing. And so it wasn’t until the speedway that you, I had access to drivers and that kind of, and cars. But there were a lot of construction the way that. Well, like when they paved it. They had special equipment. They had to put bulldozers and cranes out to be able to pave on a bank. And they had, that hadn’t ever been done before prior to that. So I recorded all that, pictures of the, the equipment grading it out. Various construction pictures. Progress pictures that show how the track was built.

CW: But, where would those pictures be now?

TW: They’re at Daytona. Yeah.

CW: Are they on display?

TW: Some of them are. Yeah, yeah. They’ve got them in the, in that attraction Daytona USA. They’ve got a wall with all these pictures of the various phases of construction. People--

CW: I hope you’re credited.

TW: Mm?

CW: I hope you’re credited.

TW: No way.

CW: ( ).

TW: They don’t even know I lived. That kind of ticks me off.

CW: Mm-hum.

TW: But, and they’ve even got. The first time I went through Daytona USA. I didn’t, who was it took me through? Somebody. Oh the photographer I guess took me through. And they had this huge--

Minidisc 1 ends; Minidisc 2 begins.

CW: Today is December the 7th, 2005. This is Christina Wright interviewing T. Taylor Warren for the UNC-Charlotte Oral History Archive. We’re in the Murrey Atkins Library at UNC-Charlotte. Mr. Warren has been a professional photojournalist of NASCAR since the sport was in its infancy in 1948. He is still photographing NASCAR in his 80th year. And this is our second disc. And in our last disc, we were just talking about the large mural down at Daytona that you said you had a photograph showing a whole aerial view of the beach track. I wondered if you could talk about that.

TW: Well, OK. It’s in, on the wall in the entrance of the Daytona USA. The attraction at the Daytona track. And I had, I’d walked in. Somebody, I think probably the photographer down there took me in. And there was this huge mural filled the whole wall of the north of the beach course from the north turn. And it had an airplane wing down in the front portion of it. And when I got back home I called my nephew and asked him if what numbers, numbers on the wing were. And he rattled them off. And I said, “That’s it!” ‘Cause it was made from a, from an air coup. Which is a mid-wing airplane. And he had to photograph it. To photograph the course you had to go into a turn, a bank turn. So that you didn’t have the wing covering the scene. And it had the, part of the wing in the picture. And it had those numbers. So my brother was flying it, and it showed the entire course from the north turn. And--

CW: When did you take that photograph?

TW: Must have been the, ‘50, it’s either ‘56 or ‘57. I think it was ‘56 probably, because the last time he was down there I knew the guy in the tower. And after it was over, he told me, “Better not come back.” Because somebody had called in and the FAA was looking for him to ground him because--

CW: Oh--

TW: Because he was flying too low. (laughs)

CW: Oh. So that you could take the picture?

TW: Yeah, yeah.

CW: Did your brother come down specifically to help you take that picture or was he coming down anyway?

TW: Well, yeah he was coming down to, to watch the races and see the stuff. But we had, the first time he came down with, with a plane. And he had said, “Lets, you’ve got guys down there shooting on the ground. So lets go make an aerial.” And so then we went out to the airport and got the plane and flew over. And shot stuff. And we did that about, about three years that he came down and we’d fly. ‘Cause I didn’t even. It was quite a ways from the beach course out to the airport. So I didn’t even go to the beach course, I just, we just, just go out to the airport. And by the time we got over the beach course they were racing. And we’d make our pictures and then go back and then I’d go back to the lab and process film. But--

CW: And that was something that you organized independently? Did you have quite a bit of freedom with this job? You could do, you know, you could interpret it as you wanted to?

TW: Yeah, yeah. It was, they didn’t. Now I see the photographers have a list of stuff that they have to, to get this picture and that picture. But back then they just left it up to me to what I felt they were going to be able to use. And having worked with, worked with Houston for several years and knew what he was going to use. And they used, it was, mostly human-interest stuff. And then if I happened to get a wreck or something then they would run that. If it didn’t entail a serious injury or something. If they just tore up some equipment. But it was. I got a lot of people, personalities and drivers and mechanics and car owners if you had somebody that was well known you’d have to get them. And just a record of what went on at the races really. Because in those days they didn’t try to make an advertising book. You ran the ads that people would get. They had advertising salesmen. And they’d get certain, go around and get as many ads as they could. Because that helped pay for the printing of it. But the picture content was more just what had transpired at the, at the race or if you had some other special stuff. Like if you had somebody building a car or something then they’d put that in. Use, use that in some way. But it was more of a pictorial program then a commercial program as it is at present.

CW: How was it paid for then? Just out of the proceeds? Just by the owner? I mean, didn’t it cost a lot of money to produce this brochure?

TW: Well they, they would. They printed enough copies of the program that there was a profit there.

CW: So you paid for the program?

TW: Oh yes. They were. Yeah.

CW: They weren’t free as you came in.

TW: No, no. They were, you had to buy them. Yeah. And they sold enough of them. And then the advertising that. I never did know what the return on the program was, but I assume that it was pretty good. Because the ads were not, the national ads were full page. But there were a lot of, I think they call them eighth page or something. They’re little, some of them were even no larger than a calling card size. Then other companies or stores or something would buy a quarter page, a half page, or an eighth. Just a little bitty one. But all together they added up.

CW: Mm-hum

TW: And then the, number of programs sold help increase the income. But.

CW: Now you were employed full-time during this time?

TW: Yeah.

CW: And so, the off. How much of that time would be spent focused on the races?

TW: Well, it’s, it’s all racing. Because you’re, you photograph the race when they’re going on. And then you print the material that’s been shot. Although at that time we printed, printed everything that was shot one time. And then if they were sending out a publicity release, they might want a quantity of other prints of one particular scene that they would maybe get seventy-five to a hundred prints to mail out to different magazines for publicity. And back in those days, I was going out to, once the racing season opened up, I’d go out to the other tracks and photograph because they would use that material in the, what they called the national program. It was a program that was printed up to be sold at these other tracks. The one, the program for Daytona was only printed with Daytona in mind. It didn’t have other, it might have one page of say of Martinsville, or Wilkesboro, or some other track. But the national program had several pages plus some advertising from the location that it was to be sold at. And I would go out and photograph it. The race at that other location and, and then they’d used it both for publicity at the other location. ‘Cause you couldn’t use Daytona pictures in North Wilkesboro or something. You had to have something that was made at that place. And then when Charlotte came along, I worked for the publicity director at Charlotte. And shot the races there so that he would have material to work with. ‘Cause they were independent of, they weren’t, they were sanctioned by NASCAR but they weren't tied to Daytona. So they did their own thing. And there were two or three others that I did work for that were not. Well like Martinsville would have, before they hired a full time PR man. Houston did the publicity for them. And then after they hired Dick Thompson, I’d go up and shoot pictures and Dick would get those. He worked with them from there. It was a case of they all cooperated with each other and they all knew what the other guy was doing. But since I was paid full-time at Daytona, I could go up. There wouldn’t be anything going on at Daytona, but I could go to Martinsville and spend a week or ten days or something and do the race. And I’d still make a living.

CW: Mm-hum. And you were able to work for these other independent, like Charlotte, racing tracks?

TW: Yeah. They. Well, they knew that I could do the job because I was working for Daytona--

CW: And it wasn’t a conflict that you did that at the same time?

TW: No, no. Because Big Bill knew that, that the stuff had to. The racing industry had to keep going and if they did a good job then it would move on. And if they fell on their face, then he would have to struggle to keep the whole thing moving ahead.

CW: So promotion was extremely--

TW: Was a big--

CW: Important. Right.

TW: Very.

CW: So describe a typical year during this period then. How would it work out for you?

TW: Gosh, I don’t know. (laughs)

CW: (laughs) When would you start? What would be happening over the early part of the year, before? I mean, what would you be doing then when?

TW: Like, from. Alright start January 1st, from you’re working on pre-race ‘cause the February event, Daytona event’s coming up. So you’re working on all phases of that. Getting the publicity out and.

CW: So you’d be drawing on old photographs for that maybe for that?

TW: For that--

CW: Or would you be going out taking pictures of--

TW: No--

CW: New cars, new drivers--

TW: No, you used the material from last February and maybe one or two from July. Since there two races at each location. You use the previous. Now you’d have to use February, because that relates to the February coming up. But you might have something in July stuff that would be useable or you want to tie in with. And then once Daytona was done, they started the racing in the, this area. In Charlotte, in the Carolinas. You’d have Richmond. You’d have, when Rockingham was built, you’d have Rockingham. You’d have North Wilkesboro. You’d have Martinsville. Now it didn’t. Later on when they built Pocono, I didn’t ever travel there. I did do some at Dover. There was always, always some track running. Plus, prior to the July races at Daytona, you’d have to start working on the publicity for that. I guess the only down time, slow time would be after the July race in Daytona. After that stuff was wound up, then you had time for a vacation as it were. A week, or two weeks of vacation time. Because then, after you had a week off there, a week, two weeks. You’d start on the fall races in the Carolinas. And then you were busy until they were all finished. And then it was time to start on the Daytona stuff. So it carries on. And there’s so much information nowadays that that’s why they go out to the shops and all that stuff to get pictures. Because they’ve, so many places carried information they’re trying to get something different so that people will notice it. And you don’t, well you’ve got to use fresh material, fresh art. And fresh stories and stuff so that they have a. Like coming up now in January, they have a media tour out of Charlotte that they go around to the various shops ‘cause there are so many of them here. And they get information. They get drivers to talk and get pictures of the new cars and stuff. Then they don’t do the same type of publicity that they used to do because television and the newspapers and the magazines all carry a bunch of information about the races so people are aware of it. Whereas, a publicity director doesn’t have to generate a whole lot of information to get people to know about the race to come.

CW: Mm-hum.

TW: And television has really changed the publicity field a lot. Now the people that are working for a sponsor, they’re not, not trying to generate publicity. A little bit prior. But mostly at the time of the race so that their product will get mentioned. But they’re, my feeling is they’re overdoing it. Because they’re putting out so much, and none of it gets used. They’re putting out tons of stuff, but it’s all, personally, I call it garbage. Because it’s, they pick up every last thing that. He bought a new hat, or he tried on a pair of shoes or something. Well, that may be great to get tied in with a story to hand out. But a newspaper writer won’t necessarily use it for any story that he’s doing. And that’s what the aim is, to get a story in the newspaper.

CW: So that you can advertise the product?

TW: The products, yeah.

CW: Mm-hum.

TW: Yeah, yeah. That.

CW: You were saying in the ‘50s that you were virtually the only photographer often on the scene. Had it changed by the ‘60s when you were doing the circuit?

TW: Yeah, you were getting more people that were coming and signing and shooting, yeah.

CW: Were they doing the same that you’d been doing earlier? Trying to make some money off some photographs? Or were they there because sponsors were starting to get involved? Or because the local newspapers were running more stories?

TW: Well, the interest was picking up. And a lot of them were getting a paper or a magazine to assign them. And send for their, to write in for their credentials to allow them in to get inside down in the pits and that type of thing. There were a lot of them they might have one or two pictures published, but they were primarily interested in coming to see the race themselves. Some of them would come up with some way out, I won’t call them phony, but they were way out of means of getting a credential. They weren’t exactly legitimate as far as news reporting. I’ve seen people that bring a what we call instamatics or a point-and-shoot to do racing photographs. They may get some, but they may not. I won’t say that they can’t. But they, they may not get much usable material. They just want to see the race. And they have a means of getting in, of being down in the pits, and around the racecars.

CW: Mm-hum.

TW: But the, first people that used to come were actually. They may get the paper to write for them but they were serious about getting something that would be published. And some of them were more or less stringers for the papers. And they would bring a camera so that whatever they wrote they could have some art. And that way the paper would be more likely to run what they, they write. So they put the two together. And then some of them come as stringers or reporters for a magazine. There are more race magazines out. And they would contact the editor of the magazine to write for them to get them credentials.

CW: Did they? Was there much camaraderie between these groups? And did they look up to you as someone who’d been in the business for a long time and had kind of seniority?

TW: Well, I never really thought about it that way. They. If they asked me, I would always help them on where to go and where to find what I felt was a good picture angle. It was up to them what they got once they got there. But they would. Most of them were, you know, they were pretty cordial. Didn’t ever have any problems other than sometimes. In the early days, Victory Lane was a crowded thing usually because of mechanics and stuff. And there might be one or two photographers. But then as more photographers began to show up, there was some jostling for position. And you just, you learned from experience where to be and, and how to protect your turf as it were. I don’t know if. Some of them would ask me, if they were a photographer on an assignment from a, well I’ll call them major publications. Something that they, they had to produce. They would ask me where to go or what to look for or something. And I could advise since I had been there for a number of times and knew where the angles and the spots were. But other than that, they just showed up.

CW: Mm-hum. Right. Where there any favorite places that you had during this time to photograph from, that you looked forward to going?

TW: Mm. No, not really. Each track spot that. I can’t. Well, people still talk about in Martinsville you used to be able to get between the, the outside rail and the spectator fence. There was a strip of grass on the, in the turn and that gave you a clear shot of the front straight away. And you could get the cars coming at you. It was kind of a spectacular thing. Now most of the people get. There’s some spots at various tracks where you can get outside the spectator fence. And they have the track has cut hole that you can stick a lens through and get a spectacular shot. But it means.

CW: Your vision would be difficult. I mean, you’d have to be watching very carefully--

TW: Yeah--

CW: (laughs)

TW: Yeah, you’ve got to stay awake. And it means a lot of walking because like I say they’re on the outside. The one at Martinsville was just across the track from the pit area. So it was a very short walk. But now you have to go outside and walk all the way around. You can’t, can’t just walk across the track and get in position. And most, most tracks it’s that. You find, well, usually people have preferred spots where they go. They’re used to, they’ve worked there and know how to get something in that location so they hang out in that. And you find two or three so you go from one to the other to get various angles so you don’t have all the same angle on the picture.

CW: What are some of your favorite pictures from this period?

TW: I don’t really have any. They’re all, I’m just looking for the next one.


TW: It’s all. I guess really. They’ve made so much to-do about it. But the finish of the first Daytona Five Hundred on the big track would be the. ‘Cause I got that finish and the only other one is the one that the editor of the paper was standing near me. And he got one just after, just mine is prior to the line and his just after the line. But I, really I’m not. At the time I figure something is newsworthy. But other than that I have no favorites. None. It’s just another picture.

CW: Now you were going out shooting them. Were you also processing them at this time? Or did you have a team of people to work with?

TW: When I worked at Daytona?

CW: Mm-hum.

TW: At race time, at the time of the February race or the July race. I had, two. I had about six to eight people that would come in and help, help shoot. I would assign them into various locations. And then part of the deal was they couldn’t just shoot and drop the film. They had to come in and help in the dark room afterwards. And--

CW: Were those freelance people? Would they change every time?

TW: No, we mostly got a. Had a group that came back each race, and they get paid yeah for showing up. And shooting. But, and we supply the film for them. But some of them were better in the dark room than others. And, and like. One or two of them would develop film and two or three might help in the darkroom making prints. They wouldn’t. It was never, you know if they had to get home or something that was fine. They’d just say, “I’ve got to go. Can’t stay and help, but I’ll help next time.” And, ‘cause only so many people could work in the darkroom at any one time.

CW: And were you usually in key position there? You wanted to be in charge of that process?

TW: Well, I didn’t. I would develop film some, but mostly because people were coming by and asking about things. So I would let somebody else that I had found out could, could do that capably. And let them do it.

CW: Mm-hum.

TW: And for the printing, I’d find people that, that knew how to make prints and quality prints so I wouldn’t. ‘Cause once you’re in those positions, you’re tied up. And you can’t just answer the phone or walk out or anything. You have to stay. So I would sit out in what, we had a, we had three rooms. Had a film developing and printing. And then a drying room. And I’d stay out in the drying room drying prints and. They were stamped with speedway logo and stuff. So that I would stay out and handle those so I could answer the telephone or talk to people or whatever was, was necessary.

CW: And that was at the speedway?

TW: Mm-hum.

CW: It would still be there I suppose? The lab and everything?

TW: Well, (laughs) When I left, they moved into doing color. They bought a color processor and they processed their own. I’m trying to think if they processed? Yeah, they processed their own color film at one time and made their own color prints. And then they kind of got away from black and white. Then they got away from that and sent it to a one-hour lab. And, now of course with digital. They put it all on cds. So they don’t have the darkroom part. And the photographer told me that the EPA was all over them. So they just eliminated the darkroom part. ‘Cause of the chemicals and that kind of thing. So that, like I say, now it’s all digital. I’m not sure that they, if they. If they need prints from color film, previous or anything. Then they send it out to an outside lab. And let them do it.

CW: Right. When you were on the road during this period, did you wait to process till you came back to Daytona and do it there?

TW: No, I had a, like when I worked most of the ones in the Carolinas. I had a dark room in Greensboro. And I could, I would use that. Here in Charlotte, I had a darkroom at the racetrack.

CW: We--

TW: Mostly it was, I used either the one in Greensboro or not very often did I haul it back to Daytona.

CW: Mm-hum. Did anybody else have that privilege or were you the only one?

TW: No, I was, I was. Well, it was my set- up. So I (laughs)--

CW: Right.

TW: I was the one.

CW: But they were able to give you the room to do that.

TW: Oh yeah.

CW: Right.

TW: Well, see in Greensboro they had had a darkroom all along. Because when they were, before the speedway was built. They had been promoting the races up here. And needed the photographs. So there was a darkroom for years in Greensboro office at the office See Bill France had an office in Greensboro--

CW: Oh right.

TW: And that’s where Houston worked out of--

CW: Right, that wasn’t an independent, like Charlotte?

TW: No--

CW: As it was. ( ).

TW: No, that was Bill France Racing--

CW: Right.

TW: That was his promotions. And Charlotte when they. Because of the Bruton Building it. Bruton and Curtis. They had a, well at first before they had anything set. They had a, they had a darkroom downtown at their offices downtown. And then when they got further along they had the. They had an old house on the property and they used the kitchen in that for the darkroom. Because they didn’t need, they didn’t need the kitchen. They had planned space for the rest of the offices. And, in Greensboro had the office. And, the first was a bathroom. But that wasn’t too convenient ‘cause sometimes people need to use the bathroom. So I moved it to a location in the basement that I could block off and make a, make a darkroom out of.

CW: Did, did the chemicals ever bother you?

TW: I guess not. (laughs) I’ve been in it all this long, so I don’t think they have. I don’t know.

CW: Are you still producing film that way?

TW: Occasionally, not, not like I did. I still have a darkroom set up in the house in Martinsville and I have all the equipment. But I never got the one completed in Florence, just too many other things going. And. I should have. Because when I needed to make prints, I used to go borrow this. I know a doctor down there that had a little house out behind his house that he had built, built a color darkroom. So I’d go over to his house and use the darkroom there. But mostly, well, with color now you can take it to a one-hour lab. And it’s easier, easier to shoot color and let the one-hour lab do it. Than it is to shoot black and white. Unless you have a darkroom all set and ready to go and want to take the time to do black and white film.

CW: Do you think the quality is as good?

TW: In relation to what? (laughs)--

CW: To each other--

TW: Reason I’m saying that. Is because they’ve advanced everything so much. That the quality is. Well I’ll say, quality is in the eye of the beholder. You can take color film and scan it and make it digital and run it through the program in the computer and make beautiful black and whites if you’ve got the right printer to work with. In fact, I was reading in one of the trade papers that some of the photographers are going. They had shifted from film to digital. But now they’re shifting back to shooting film and then having it scanned because they can do a better job with the. Using film as a base and then going to the digital. Evidently from what they’re saying, some of the digital stuff is not as. Doesn’t have as long a range as the film. And so they can, can shoot film. Have it processed and then scan it and work from there.

CW: Interesting.

TW: But film, both black and white and color, has improved so much over the old four-by- five stuff even. That it’s just unbelievable. And (clears throat) that was why at first I never did work with thirty-five too much. And consequently probably didn’t get the hang of how to make it real super. But the quality of the film was not, not that great. And well racing was not a, you didn’t have that much control. So that I know a lot, there were some photographers that were shooting black and white and had gorgeous stuff. But I felt that they had time to work with it and mess with it. And had spent time learning how to manipulate it. But nowadays the stuff you can almost throw it in the gutter and pick it up and make a beautiful print. It’s, it’s that, improved that much. And so has color. So that you’re getting good results. Plus the, the lenses. That was another thing. In the early days, the equipment was not as high quality as it is now. And so when you made an eight by ten from a four by five. You’re only magnifying it twice, whereas, the thirty-five it’s (pause) about ten, eight to ten times magnification. And it doesn’t take much when you’re magnifying it that much to see imperfections. Digital I had to get into it virtually. And so the first camera I had was the first generation of Nikons. And after a little bit of it, I became unhappy with the quality. Not that I was printing that much of it. And, but it, I just wasn’t pleased with it. So now I’ve gotten a later generation corners and the stuff. I haven’t shot it that much. I just got it. But the, it looks better. It just, it has more resolution and that’s the main thing. How much resolution, how much of the fine details you can maintain.

CW: Mm-hum. On the, looking back in general do you think? What do you think you got your best results with? Which camera, which era of camera do you think you got your best results with?

TW: (pause) Well, you start out with a four by five. You pick and choose what you’re going to expose, what picture you’re going to make. The quality of the film. It was slow and it was not as high a resolution as it is now. People look at the stuff and say, “Oh, that’s great.” Well, to me it’s just another picture. Then you went from that to two and a quarter square, or two and a quarter. I shot the square format. The film in that was better quality even though it was a smaller film. And the lenses that you used were a better quality. So you were getting, you were improving. Then I went to thirty-five millimeter. And that, they have kept progressing on the quality of the lenses. Like with the four-by-five you had one or two lenses. You had a normal or a semi-telephoto. ‘Cause a telephoto that covered a four-by-five was a great big thing. The two and quarter you had mostly a normal lens. There were some telephotos. Then I moved up to Hasselblad and you could buy several different lenses. You had wide angle, normal, and telephoto that you could use. There again the telephoto was heavy and awkward ‘cause it was a bigger image that you were covering. The thirty-five millimeter you can get a range of lenses from here to there. And telephotos are, they're heavy but in comparison to a telephoto for a four-by-five there’s not much difference. But the camera’s a lot lighter and you make, you can can put in a roll of film that will make thirty-six pictures. So that would be eighteen holders which would be a tremendous stack for a four-by-five. For as compared to the two and a quarter. You just didn’t have. Well the Hasselblad had the quality stuff. When I started with it everybody said, “Oh, you got a Hasselblad. Isn’t that high priced?” Well, I was writing it off as a business. It was expensive, but it was a business. Now you can buy thirty-five millimeter equipment and in comparison the price of it is dirt-cheap. And now there are certain lenses that are very expensive. But the entire outfit is not nearly as expensive. Plus they’ve improved the film in the thirty-five millimeter all the time. And you can take various black and white, color, and slide material. And they’re all so much better than the early films. Now with digital, you can, there again you can go from low-priced to high-priced. And the higher-priced you get the better your quality is going to be. As far as what you get. But you can do so much more with it. And by going into the computer and working it up. And you don’t have to. It does take the time, but you can, you can do things with it that were possible for film. But it took a day or two days or something to, to get it. By the time you ran through lab and picked it up and then worked with it. So that, the quality of the photography has improved along with the outcome of the racing. Like I say, the cars are now aerodynamic. And they’ve got engineers to work on them. And with photography you’re buying what some company or manufacturer figures that everybody will want. But you’re not spending near the money that a race team does on personnel and special equipment to build the racecar with. And like with the lenses. They’ve got, a prime lens is one focal length whereas a zoom lens you can go from wide angle where you can take in the room with one lens. Or you can pull out and get just the doorknob or something. All from the same position. And get the same quality, same resolution on either one. The wide angle will be sharp and the doorknob will be sharp. And that was something that you couldn’t do with four by five.

CW: Mm-hum.

TW: You had to walk up to it if you wanted a full size image.

CW: Mm-hum, right. Do you have? If you were setting out though to take a wonderful picture. What would you set out with? What would be your choice of picking up the camera? That thirty-five millimeter maybe?

TW: Yeah, because of. Well, according to what I was wanting to make a picture of.


TW: (laughs) The reason being that there are certain lenses. You don’t have the zoom lens, well, I think there are a couple for the Hasselblad. But you don’t have the range of lenses with the two and a quarter that you do with the thirty-five millimeter. Irregardless of the price. Now the price on the, on the range of lenses for the Hasselblad would be more, much than the thirty-five. But if I wanted to make a picture of say, the entire racetrack I’d need a wide angle. And probably a, probably I would use the thirty-five millimeter because you can get wide-angle lenses. Now you can get real wide angle for the Hasselblad. And they do a superb job. I’m not sure which one. It’d all, it’d all be about price I’d think. The, the money angle. And, and how, because with a thirty-five millimeter now you can get super-sized prints. And that use to be part of the thing was that with the two and a quarter you could get bigger prints and, and get a better job, better quality than you could with thirty-five. But thirty-five now, like I say, they’ve improved stuff so much that it’s a toss up.

CW: Do you think that the craft of the photographer now is easier? Or the same, or harder?

TW: Well, (laughs) I’m of the old school. Everybody’s a hero now because all you do is pick up a camera, point it, punch the button, and you’re it. You take it to the one-hour and they make a good print. And if you’ve got some good people running the one-hour, you can get crappy prints from one-hours or you can get superb prints. The person running it has to know how to do it also. The, the craft of photography is. And I have always said this, that the person behind the camera should be somewhat of an artist. I don’t claim to be. I can do the mechanical part and the, but I know how to run a lab. I can produce whatever you want me to produce. For the artsy, I’m not an artist. I don’t, don’t say I am. I just make decent pictures.

CW: What do you think the difference would be? Maybe you’re an artist that won’t admit it? (laughs)

TW: Well, personally I’m not sure what. I know what I like. But I’m not sure that, that what I like and what the general public thinks would be the same. Now they, I belong to the NAPA, National Motorsports Press Association. And they have a photo contest every year for the members. The last two years, they’ve had me along with a couple other guys to help judge the photo contest. There we only pick what we think is the prime from what we see. What’s been submitted. Some of them are great. Some of them I think “why’d they bother to send it?” But it’s all in what the beholder sees. Whether they, there’s paintings that I think are pure stuff. And others are nice pictures. As far as making one, because in racing you don’t really. You really don’t set it up. You take what you, what you see. Now you can maneuver around and get a decent or good picture. You can vary your position or wait for something to happen. But you really can’t place it, set it up, and make it happen. I’ve made pictures. I used to make the, when Dick Thompson was PR director, he would set up things for a cover. He’d have a picture he wanted to do, and we’d put it all together and shoot it. And people would remark about the thing. But as far as--

CW: What, what kind of a set up would that be?

TW: Well, one of them he had. When Mountain Dew was, first came into sponsoring racing. He had us set up the, he’d stacked up a bunch of Mountain Dew cases and bottles. And that’s when Darrell Waltrip was driving and Junior Johnson was the car owner. And Clay Earles was the track promoter. So he had those three and they set up out in the woods. And he had them with, with shotguns and rifles guarding the stack of Mountain Dew.

CW: (laughs)

TW: Then he had another one where. When Darth Vader was big, he had, he had Darth Vader. He got a Darth Vader costume and had the driver in it. And, well I’ve forgotten. It was something. I’ve forgotten how the thing. But I know he worked in the Darth Vader theme and for the cover. And then one of them the bank was sponsoring the race. So he had two or three of the drivers like at the vault door with bags of, you know, like moneybags. To, like they were taking it away or you know had won that much or bringing it in or something. These are the things. They were his ideas, and I just executed them. They were fun to do. (laughs)

CW: What would you say, as, you as a photographer. What advice would you give other photographers about taking pictures? In particular, of NASCAR? You’ve talked about being in the right place.

TW: Well, yeah. The right, the right place is wherever you are at the moment. But you have to keep awake. And, and think about what you’re, what’s coming you know. If you’re doing the race, you have to watch. And kind of see ahead of time what’s happening. If you’re doing people, it’s just a case of, of thinking about what you’re seeing. If a, if a driver’s say he’s eating a hot dog or something. Well, you know, if it looks amusing if he’s got the whole thing stuffed up in his face or, or if he’s holding it like it’s a violin bow or something. You have to think about what you’re, what you’re shooting. They don’t do, now I don’t agree with a lot of the pictures that they’re shooting now. They do, photographs of the drivers with a full-face helmet. That’s the one that, just his eyes are showing. And I can’t, personally I don’t see that at all. I guess I’m of the old school, and Houston didn’t even want. When he, when I’d bring in what. A picture with the driver with sunglasses on. He’d tell me on my, he’d not say, “What am I going to do with this?” But it, it was virtually, “Hey I don’t want this kind of picture. Get them without their sunglasses.” Now of course, the sunglasses because they get sponsorship on those. That’s part of their deal. But the full-face helmet I don’t see. Because it’s, covers up too much of the face and you don’t see the person. You only see eyes. And you’re selling racing not eyeglasses or something. And then another thing that they’re doing that I don’t approve of is they’re tipping the camera over so that the cars are either going uphill or downhill. The track’s not on an incline. It’s, it’s level. And they’re tipping them. It’s something different. I guess they shoot so much, they have to get something different for what, from what their normal picture that they’re. And I wonder how many people are really utilizing that, ‘cause I don’t see them published that way.

CW: So your advice then, may be that you’re taking a record of something that, that’s happened and you want it to be a true record. You want to have the best picture, look for the best moment that’s saying something?

TW: Yeah, I do. Yeah, that’s my, my theory--

CW: And the technical side, would you have advice on the technical side? Or?

TW: No because I see some that they make them (clears throat). Excuse me. They make them with a, slow motion. Where they, you know, where they’ve used the slow shutter speed and the car is blurred. Or they do it the other way with the car sharp and everything else, else is blurred. Those I think are, now that’s neat. To me that is innovative and it shows it off in a different means. There are, are trick things out there now. You can get filters that you can make the center of it real sharp and everything else blurry. That helps emphasize what you’re trying to show. (pause) I don’t, like the only. Like I say, the things that I’m against being of the old school is that they use the motor drives. And they really don’t think about what they’re shooting. They just make a bunch of them and then pick out one. If they would. Now I used to shoot, and still do sometimes when I’m submitting to other papers. I shoot two or three of the same thing. Because I’d send everybody a different exposure. I wouldn’t send the same picture to two or three different papers or magazines. That’s, to me, that’s not fair. Because the paper wants to have an exclusive and if you send them the same angle and everything, they might not run it. (laughs)

CW: Mm-hum.

TW: But like I say, that’s. The old school talking, not the present day. Now of course when Houston would get seventy-five or a hundred prints to mail out, the people knew that that was not an exclusive. It was just a record thing. But if he sent a story and a picture, they had the exclusive publication on it. They weren’t, they couldn’t, wouldn’t pick up somebody’s else’s paper and see the same thing in it.

CW: Right. You stayed there until 1971 with Bill France’s organization.

TW: Mm-hum.

CW: What made you decide to leave?

TW: They did.

CW: Oh, they did.

TW: (laughs) No, I. They, they back years before they had hired. When Bill was, was building Talladega I think they had Pure Oil had advanced him or loaned him couple million dollars I think it was to help build the track. Or a million or something. It was a huge amount of money. And they had hired this Jim Foster to come in and kind of to I guess he was suppose to squeal if something didn’t go right or something. Anyhow he was made Bill’s personal secretary. And but then he was there, after Bill paid them back and all he was still there. And Houston was getting older, so they put. Foster had been sports writer. He’d worked for a paper. So they put Foster in as the PR director and moved Houston over to handling the programs for the track. And Foster and I bumped heads, and I was gone. (laughs) It was--

CW: What was the issue?

TW: Well, the, the argument we had was about how to handle the negatives. How to retrieve them in the files. And I was doing the work and he’d, he wanted to I guess just throw them up in the air. And he didn’t like the way I was doing it. And there were a couple of other little things. He wanted me to bill the tracks. And I didn’t want to do that. And because these were personal friends, and I knew what they’re thinking was. What the tracks, the promoters, these were the tracks up in the Carolinas. And I didn’t want to get on the outs with them. So I, I didn’t want to do that. So he instituted all this stuff. And I wasn’t part of it. So they let me go. But I had. It wasn’t. I had been thinking about it some anyhow. Because I had been looking at, I wanted to operate a camera store. And I had, knew about one. I had hired this boy that was going to Daytona Beach Junior College, DBJCC. And he had come over and I put him on helping me at the track. And he was from Martinsville. So when I’d go to Martinsville, I’d talk to him and everything. And he told me about the camera shop. The man that had the camera shop there was wanting to get out. So I had talked to the camera shop owner and it sounded like a good deal to buy in. But then when they let me go, I thought “oh, this is my opportunity”. But then when I talked to the guy I found out that his bookkeeping was all paper and he had nothing to back it up. So I backed away from that. And then I had already moved up there. And, and I bought the studio instead. Got an education on that one. So that. But we worked it out, we worked, and worked. And made a go of it. But, that was another education. Don’t buy a studio. (laughs)

CW: Why?

TW: Well, you can do just as well starting out from scratch. All I had was a bunch of old equipment. And come to find out, they had. What it was the lady’s husband had died. But she had, this was in February, but she had at Christmastime, had gone through and solicited all their customers, every one of them. To do all the photographic work they could. So when I took over, nobody wanted any pictures. They’d already had them. So that was, that was the education. But we made it work.

CW: So what was the business called?

TW: Pictures, Incorporated is what we called it.

CW: Mm-hum.

TW: When a--

CW: And you operated an independent studio. Regular photographic studio?

TW: Yeah, the whole nine yards. Studio, store, lab, one-hour lab. We had, when the one-hour labs came out we got one of those. And did the whole nine yards.

CW: Mm-hum. And this was in?

TW: Martinsville.

CW: Martinsville. But you didn’t stop doing NASCAR did you?

TW: No, that was a--

CW: (laughs)

TW: Well, I didn’t. There was part of the time I couldn’t do it as much because of you know the shop and all and travel. I couldn’t cut it. But I did a lot. And still did quite a bit. But it had to pay off. And I didn’t, I didn’t solicit the companies like, because I didn’t have the time to devote to going. Excuses me. Going to the track on a Thursday or something, I had to go on Friday or Saturday. I just. You know, you can’t run two businesses and one of them travel. But--

CW: How? You hadn’t been able to make much of a profit out of your photographs prior to the period that you were employed at Daytona. So how in this later period were you able to? You know, was it a different, a different world and?--

TW: Well--

CW: ( )--

TW: I wasn’t making that much on them. I had a few accounts that, that I could sell to. But the shop was keeping me going.

CW: Right.

TW: I probably was only breaking even with the stuff that I was doing on the outside.

CW: So your passion for filming the sport was really the riding motivation for continuing with that?--

TW: Yeah--

CW: From ‘71--

TW: Yeah--

CW: Yeah. And you’re still doing it--

TW: Yeah--

CW: You’re still following the circuit and?--

TW: Well, selected races and close-by ones and all. Because the younger guys can race all over the track. They, they can walk more and they’re willing to take the beating that I used to take. And don’t feel like doing anymore. Can’t, I can’t, I get worn out.

CW: Mm-hum.

TW: At one time when I worked at Daytona when I’d come out to some of these tracks in Carolinas, they had. The track got what they call brass hat cars. These are cars and trucks and things that the track gets or that they put out on. They’re like consignment. I think, I don’t know what the entire deal is. I think the track covers the insurance on them and they probably pay a dollar a year to use them. Then they turn them back in at the end of the period. And I got a van. I don’t know how I came up with this idea. But anyhow, built a darkroom in the back of it. And had. Let’s see, did I have an air conditioner? No, I guess it didn’t have an air conditioner. But I had a sink, had water, had my enlarger. I could, and if I got to a. I’d go to the different tracks and I could hook up to their water faucet and I’d have running water in the van. And then I’d get in there, do all my film, make enlargements. This was when the track would take. I’d make a couple of prints or two or three. The track would take it to the AP, and they would transmit. AP would transmit the picture to their, on their service so that I was providing a service to the race track. And out of my van.

CW: Was nobody else? Nobody else had thought of that?

TW: No--

CW: That was a new?--

TW: No. That was something--

CW: How long did you do that for?

TW: About three years, I guess.

CW: What made you stop?

TW: (pause) I really don’t know. ‘Cause I, even I. Well after the vans, I think I had two vans. And then they got a pickup truck. And I had a camper, and I fixed the back end of it so could use that as a darkroom. And I had an air conditioner in that. (laughs) I had one of the little bitty ones. But one of the guys tells about the first time he met me, I was I think it was Rockingham. And they sent him down to see if I had a print ready. And he went, says he, he was telling us afterwards that he went down and couldn’t, didn’t see me. And they, he went back and said, “I don’t see him anyplace. There’s nothing but a van sitting down.” And they said, “He’s in that.” So he came down (laughs) and knocked. I was in the van making the prints. And that was the first time he’d met me. (laughs) He couldn’t believe that a van sitting, would be, have a photographer in it.

CW: Right--

TW: But that was--

CW: Ideal.

TW: It was neat. (laughs)

CW: Did you still have a relationship with Bill France’s organization during this time? Did they buy pictures from you or was that all over?

TW: Well, they didn’t (clears throat) buy anything because they had their own. After, when I was gone they hired another man to take my place. But I still had rapport with them. Bill and Billy and all the rest of those. I never have. I was ticked off, but they just shifted gears was all. And, and Houston was aware of what was going on. But there was nothing he could do. He wasn’t he was only in the program department. And just, I don’t, it just. I kept on. Like still like now. I’d go to the track and sign in and, or send for my credentials. They never. But then even, even after I left I was still doing work for Wilkesboro and Martinsville and. Lets see, I never did work for Richmond. I’d send them stuff. (pause) Oh, I did Rockingham, I did their work too. I did several, several different tracks. ‘Cause everybody knew me, and they knew what I could do and how I did it. So it was no question about, about shooting for them.

CW: Right. What about today? What do you like to do now in the current period? How much of that shooting do you still do? You said you limit yourself now?

TW: Yeah, I’m only doing about ten, ten races. Well, I do the two at Daytona. And the two at Charlotte. And the two at Martinsville. And my relatives, I’m from Dover. In Delaware. So I go up there because I go up to visit relatives and do the race at the same time. And that’s about it. I occasionally may go back to Atlanta. I didn’t care for Atlanta because the track was great, but getting away from there took so long and, and you got all messed up in the traffic at Atlanta. But they, I understand now they have built a road over to the interstate so that it’s a straight shot. So I may go back.

CW: Mm-hum.

TW: And do Atlanta again.

CW: And how, how many pictures do you typically shoot these days at a race?

TW: (pause) Well, the, the whole weekend I’d probably shoot. Let’s see, eight, two hundred. Two to three hundred pictures. I don’t shoot that much. Because for one thing, the guy that I shot for Southern Motor Racing - is only going to use half a dozen, ten at the most. So if I shoot too much it’s just a waste of material. So I pick and choose what I’m shooting.

CW: Right. So you’re shooting these specifically for someone. Who did you say that was?

TW: Southern Motor Racing--

CW: Right--

TW: It’s a bi-weekly race paper--

CW: Mm-hum.

TW: But he’s been publishing for thirty years or more.

CW: Have you been working for him, that you know, have you been selling photographs to him for that long?

TW: Yeah, ‘cause I. He used to handle the, the publicity work for North Wilkesboro and I worked for him up there. And yeah, I’ve been working for him ever since.

CW: Do, do your photographs get a lot of you know. Are they often presented in the magazine? Does he have other people taking photographs too? Or--

TW: Well, they--

CW: Are you exclusive?

TW: They, since the thing has changed. Now NASCAR provides if you get on the Internet and they have a person that shoots a bunch of stuff and puts it on the Internet. So he can look through that and look through my stuff and decide which one he wants. So sometimes he’ll use two or three of them and other times he doesn’t use any. It’s just according to what. And then too I have trouble getting him. He publishes on Tuesday, so if I’m at a track that has good bus service out of from that track to Winston then I’m alright. But if their bus service is nil or very spotty then he might not get them in time. But he’ll use them if something. And I’m not, I never see it until later. So I don’t know just what exactly he is looking for at any one particular time. And that varies according to what has transpired at the race. What, what kind of story he’s doing.

CW: Right.

TW: But.

CW: I wondered if. I know I asked you this question earlier. But do you think that there’s been, has there been a favorite period in that long career of yours? Or are you still looking ahead to the future? Was there a time that you were doing, you know, everything you wanted to in your career and had a strong feeling of fulfillment and excitement? Or is that still happening and you’re looking forward to the next race?

TW: Well, the only problem now is not getting enough of the pictures used in some way. And like I say, (clears throat) I don’t solicit the sponsors. And now that’s the big thing. These other, the younger guys are running all over trying to. And they’re getting pictures of a variety of things. But they’re, they’re working with like a PR director who will tell them, “Oh I need so and so with something.” And it’s not racing, it.—more commercial. Not as much news angle anymore.

[tape ends abruptly in the middle of sentence.]

End of Interview.