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The Web - The Great Equalizer

By John Krill

In the auto-racing world we all know who Pete Lyons is but how many of you know Allen Kuhn of Vintage Sportcar Photos or Pat Smith of Turbo Racing Photos?

If you know these gentlemen then it's probably because of the Web. The Web has become the great equalizer of professional and amateurs alike. The Web has blurred the line between them. In the past only photographers who earned an income could be called professionals. They earned that income selling photos to a very limited group of magazines. Not any more. All of us who have photographed auto races can now create a Web site and put those photos up for viewing and if they're good enough you sell them.

Allen Kuhn has photos from the 50's and 60's of auto-races from all over southern California and Pat Smith spent so much time at Riverside Raceway he must have built his own porta-john there. Pat has 100's, maybe 1000's, of photographs from that hot, dusty track.

There are many, many photographs of great historical value that are stored away in closets all over the world. Why is that? I think the answer lies in the fact that both auto-racing and the 35mm Single Lens Reflex (SLR) cameras came of age at the same time. In the 60's and 70's everyone had to have a 35mm SLR camera and what was more popular than auto-racing? What better place to use the 35mm camera but at race tracks all over the world.

How many 35mm cameras with those long lenses were roaming the tracks taking thousands of photos? What happened to all the photos? Probably got viewed once or twice and then were stored away in the back closet never to be seen again. Then came the Internet and the Web.

This photographer first saw the Web in '95. He had been working in the computer industry for 20 years but had always wanted to publish his work. Especially the work he did while a US Marine photographer in Vietnam. His photos from the Can-Am races at Laguna Seca were long forgotten.

From the beginning I saw the power of the Web. Anyone could become a published photographer with a worldwide audience. The only hurdle was the cost of entry. There were no Web editors like Dreamweaver in '95. And the cost of film scanners in '95 was beyond what I was willing to pay. So for me it was a waiting game.

When Microsoft published its Web editor, Frontpage, I started designing web pages and complete sites. But it wasn't until 2001 that I was willing to invest in a film scanner. I then purchased a Minolta film scanner for $600 that was already a generation old. But for creating images for the Web it was the perfect scanner. At this time I also dumped Frontpage and purchased Dreamweaver.

So now I dig out all the old images and start designing web pages. For this photographer the purpose of the photographs was to tell a story. That's why my photos are grouped together. It's the story.

I started with work that I did when I bought my first 35mm SLR in '66. It had belonged to my dad and when he purchased a newer camera he sold me his Nikon F. Still have that camera. You can see these stories at www.photoessayist.com. The largest story in that group was about rafting down the Green and Colorado rivers.

It wasn't until I started going through all my stored negatives that I came upon the Can-Am photographs. Here again I wanted to group the photos and tell stories. Once I had scanned all the negatives, color and BW, I went about editing and putting together the different stories: the Place, Paddocks, People, etc. I surprised myself by how much material I had.

While putting together Can-Am at Laguna Seca the most valuable tool was the racing programs I had saved from the races. Without those programs it would have been very difficult to put together the site. The lesson here is - buy the program and save it!

Can-Am at Laguna Seca has been up for over two years and is the most popular section of photoessayist.com. With the section on the Chaparral 2J the most popular pages of the entire site.

Now in 2005 the cost of entry is very small. The film scanner I purchased for $600 can now be had for $150. And there are many entry-level Web page editors.

Don't try to do it all in the beginning. Scan the negatives and see what you have. You just may be sitting on a gold mine. Allen Kuhn was. So was Pat Smith.

Check out the list of sites here and at locations all over this site.