Preferring ‘carpe diem’ to a constructed scene, she is an artist who captures gestures and expressions rather than having her subjects pose for a portrait. With her uniquely sensitive style, she turns shots of cars and the world around them into delicate, highly romantic photos. Here’s how the British photographer launched her own great little revolution
Words by Francesca Rabitti
Amy Shore is a modern Jane Austen: characters appear from the lens of her camera, creating stories. I would certainly recognise one of her photos among thousands, because nobody can tell a situation that includes a car like she does. Most of her colleagues put cars in the centre of a world that revolves around them, while she defines herself as a photographer of people more than of cars, because a car is just a car, perhaps photographed over a thousand times in the past, while all that surrounds it changes continuously, evolves, and this is why it deserves more attention.
And so a white car travelling through the countryside can show us so much more, with a little imagination: escaping from the hustle and bustle of the city, a Barbour jacket protecting from the cold, a pair of wellingtons to walk in a meadow damp with dew, the misty landscape and the sky promising rain that will never come. The damp air that gets inside the bones as soon as you breathe it in. But then this is England, and that’s why I love it. Or again, an empty beach, a distant sea with the cliffs looming above. Two cars parked on the sand, looking towards the horizon, like two friends enjoying a trip to the seaside, or two lovers.
There is romanticism in Amy’s photos, perhaps also due to the unmistakeable view that embraces the onlooker.
And talking of romanticism, I find out that Amy used to be a wedding photographer, and approached the car world with the same love she would use for the happy couple: warmth and emotion are the feelings she seeks to convey, even though she is the first to admit that it’s not easy working with a modern supercar. Without forgetting spontaneity, something you note straight away; studying the fine details of a set is not part of her work methods, she prefers to seize the moment rather than have creative control over the situation.
I remember the first time I saw her Instagram profile, I said: “At last, a woman who sees cars from a different viewpoint.” She made a difference, and in her works I could spot a minor revolution. So I just had to ask her what it means working in such a man’s world. She said that there was still some prejudice, particularly from older people. Recently she was asked if she was a full-time photographer, if it was her only job: having done this for ten years, who knows if people would have asked her the same question if she had been a man. How much longer will she have to keep on showing how good she is?
Despite all this, her talent has been her best calling card, and that’s what has allowed her to work for the most prestigious magazines since she first started out.
One among all of them: Octane - if you haven’t seen her article on the DeLorean, look for it - which contacted her about a job. She confesses that she felt under a lot of pressure, she was afraid that they wouldn’t like her innovative style. And yet, a little while later and one of her photos was on the cover, on the shelves of all the newsagents. After this she was hired by illustrious clients, including Pirelli and Bentley, while Goodwood wanted her to document its events - just to offer a few examples.
But where did her love for photography come? Amy has always loved taking photos: she defines herself as an impatient artist, capturing people and situations is one way of satisfying her restlessness, getting a result in less than a second. When she was at school, she loved artistic subjects the most, and this is why she thought she would become a designer. But cars grabbed her attention only when she passed her driving test: growing up in a small town in the middle of nowhere, having a car meant being free, not having to depend on her parents for everything.
When she was 19, her passion for all things beautiful led her to buy a vintage Mini: she wasn’t interested in engines, more in driving and style.
It was when she started photographing these cars that she got to know them better, but she confesses that she still has a lot to learn about modern cars. So what does a professional who, despite her young age, has photographed all the cars she has wanted to, from the Ferrari 250 GTO to the Jaguar D-Types, to name but a few, still dream of doing? Certainly, she would like to have some new adventures, the Mille Miglia or Le Mans, or perhaps shooting a road trip in South America or the Norwegian fjords: for work or for pleasure, she would like it to be soon.
Talking about unforgettable memories, she has no doubts: the time she flew in an acrobatic plane to photograph another one of the same kind. During a loop, the engine cut out as they were upside down facing the sky, and they had to turn round to face the earth for a couple of seconds in order to switch it back on.
That was certainly one of her most memorable shots, even though she hasn’t forgotten the day when she had just 40 minutes to photograph Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc together, standing in front of a Ferrari Monza.
Being a photographer on Instagram has its pros and cons. This is one question we just have to ask today of a professional working in this field. The existence of a free platform where you can promote your own work and find inspiration from others is certainly a clear advantage, but Amy mentions some of the down sides, which make me think. First of all, you risk comparing your work to that of your colleagues all the time, seeing which events they have been to and which cameras they have used. Very often there is a very high psychological price to pay. So, is it worth it?
Without mentioning the number of “likes”: she switched this option off a while back, as she didn't want other people to see hers, and doesn't want to see those of others. All too often this becomes a yardstick for judging the quality of the work rather than the work itself, and this is very sad. Since Instagram changed its algorithm, only 10% of your followers see the work you publish, and this has led to a sudden drop in engagement, and consequently in self-esteem.
One day someone said to her, “We hired you for this job because you have a lot of followers and we expect you to post something about us.” This is the worst kick up the backside you could get, because it means that you don't care about the years of hard work, the sexist comments, the sleepless nights, you just look at the numbers. At the end of the day, Instagram is fantastic, but only if you can cope with the stress and you are able to set limits.
In this regard, it springs to mind how Amy is part of a real revolution, one of the first photographers to offer magazines that typical style of social networks in the digital era.
She tells me that when she started photographing cars and publishing her work on social media, she was one of the few people who had an interesting style. In her opinion, Laurent Nivalle was the only one doing some innovative work, as he didn't think of cars as superstars in the spotlight, rather as subjects on which the light fell and around which people interacted. Amy was inspired by him, because his lens talks about cars in an interesting way, attracting the attention even of people who aren’t car enthusiasts: in some way, he considers them like people.
In addition to Nivalle she mentions Harry Benson, Vivian Maier, Don McCullin, as well as artists like Jack Vettriano and Alvaro Castagnet, the film director Wes Anderson, for their unique way of seeing the light and colours, and how they build their scenes.
I’m curious to know what advice she would give to young photographers trying to find their way in the world – because enjoying the fame that Amy does also means being imitated: many times I have seen poor copies of her shots. She offers a lesson she learned from Nivalle: if you copy other people, you will always be one step behind.
You have to find your own style. So, there’s no problem taking inspiration from others, but you have to select the right subjects, understand which lenses are right for the best shot, choose the right light, and of course, the best way to edit the shots. Every work has to have the photographer's trademark: that’s the only way to avoid being one of the many.
Any art form can be of help: films, music videos, dancers, artists generally, they are all precious sources of inspiration. And talking of work, what are her tools of the trade? Amy never goes anywhere without her two Nikons: a Z9 on her right shoulder and a D6 on her left, with a 35mm f/1.4 lens on one and an 85mm f/1.4 on the other. Recently, she has fallen in love with the Z 50mm f/1.2, that she always takes with her and uses when the situation allows.
My chat with Amy Shore has come to an end, but there’s one last thing I want to say to our readers. If you are at a motor event, and you see a girl with a big, genuine smile and round Harry Potter-style glasses taking photos with her beloved Nikons, do me a favour.
Don't ask what the hell a woman is doing among all those cars, because in all probability she has a lot to teach you, thanks to her unique way of looking at life as it passes us by and of turning it into pictures.
Some people are born for a very specific job. This is one of them. This is the story of Amy the photographer.
Francesca Rabitti has been looking for stories to read and write since her childhood and today they are still a really important part of her life and work. She writes short stories and some of them have been awarded at International Literary Awards. She's a National Geographic Italia contributor, too: she likes travelling and translating into words her emotions and anecdotes people from all around the world confess to her. That’s what she does for Speedholics: sharing the passion of people, that goes beyond everything and lasts forever.