Reviewed: A Question of Speed

Fred Bonatto's A Question of Speed

There are a lot of photographic studies of classic motoring available at the bookstore. Most of these are a collection published by a stock motoring photography house, with a variety of photographers images from the past slapped together under a sometimes tenuous theme. Occasionally we’ll see a singular volume from an individual photographer’s catalog. I tend to be more drawn to these as the work takes on a new perspective than simply the subject of the photographs. The consistency of photographic technique and the photographer’s eye lends the volume a more personal and intimate point of view that holds the book together.

Fred Bonatto’s A Question of Speed is akin to this later type of work, but with a key difference. Rather than a collection of decades old photography, Fred spent the summer of 2013 traveling to the Donnington Historic Festival, the Spa Six Hours race, and Copenhagen Historic GP documenting the cars and—vitally—the community of contemporary vintage racing. I love it.

An image from Fred Bonatto's A Question of Speed

The past few summers I’ve not been able to attend the number of vintage races that I would like and Fred’s book makes me feel like I’ve just returned from a great race weekend. The reason is simple: he turns his lens at wonderful cars—some in the pits and some on track. Just as importantly he also trains his eye on the real reason race weekends are so wonderful: the people that make them happen. The moments captured of drivers, mechanics, spectators, and corner workers all hard at work/play give you a real sense of being in the paddock on race weekend. We all know that the on-track action is only a fraction of the enjoyment of a solid race weekend.

An image from Fred Bonatto's A Question of SpeedI also appreciate Fred’s commitment to capturing the atmosphere of a race on black and white film. Film! I’m not necessarily a personal stalwart for chemical photo developing, but I do appreciate the confidence and patience that it takes to limit yourself. When I’m in the paddock, I shoot hundreds and hundreds of images with my digital camera knowing that I’ll be able to find a precious handful of quality shots from the weekend. That is a luxury that the expense of film makes impractical for me, but in the hands of a much more talented photographer, there’s a beauty in the grain of film photography that A Question of Speed captures beautifully.

Fred Bonatto’s A Question of Speed is like a perfect race weekend that I can pluck from the shelf anytime I like—whether it’s because I’m missing whatever vintage event happens to be this weekend, or because it’s mid-February. I’ll always have this wonderful little escape to the paddock right there on the shelf waiting for me.

A Question of Speed is limited to 100 precious copies and is available from

Help Kickstart a Book of Never Before Published Racing Photography

You already know that I love these kinds of projects that highlight amateur and unpublished photography documenting our favorite eras in motorsport. From just the few initial shots shared on the Kickstarter project page the MotorBinder project already looks fantastic.

Even just a few years ago, this kind of project would have been impossible and these photos would have remained on a shelf in their tattered binder. If project organizer Roy Spencer were particularly resourceful, he might have shopped the idea to a motoring publisher or two. Chances are stronger, however, that these photos would have remained unpublished. We might never have been able to see greater insight into the growth in American road racing in the 50s and 60s with images from Torrey Pines, Paramount Ranch, Laguna Seca, Riverside and others. What’s more, the team plan to archive and make these photos available to other projects in the future, even those that don’t make it into the final art book.

As is customary with Kickstarter projects, there are a variety of rewards for backers at varying levels, and these are marvelous. The large format prints available to backers are worth it on their own, that you also get the book makes this one a no brainer.

More information on the Kickstarter page.

Update: with several days to go, MotorBinder has been successfully funded!