In a world where social media and Instagram rule the internet, the image is king. That’s why every sports league pulls out all the stops to have the best photographers representing their series, their brand values and their partners. The FIA World Endurance Championship is no exception. They employ a team of official photographers, run by Adrenal Media, who capture every detail of the race weekend, both on and off the track. We sat down with John Rourke, founder of Adrenal Media and the chief photographer for the FIA WEC.
John, your mission is to present the FIA WEC’s vision. How do you tell that story? What does your job involve?
Our jobs are extremely diverse. It can be very simple at one end of the spectrum, or very complex and creative at the other end. Our task isn’t just to shoot pretty pictures during a race. For every race, we get an extensive briefing of what the race organisation requires. Some images are just overview shots of signage and sponsor placements on the track. Things that can be used in meetings and presentations when preparing events in future seasons. Our main goal every weekend is to generate as much useful content and data as possible. During the race weekend I’m joined by a team of two photographers who are both extremely talented, and each of them has their own speciality. In the end the main goal is to capture the atmosphere at each event as if the viewer was there.
As a creative person, is there space within an organisation like the FIA WEC for a lot of creativity?
I believe creativity is one of the main reasons I’m sitting here shooting this championship and talking to you now. I come from a totally different background and to this day I don’t consider myself a motorsport photographer. I come from a portrait background, shooting street and fashion portraits. But now I consider myself a street photographer, with the pit lane as my favoured backdrop. The good thing about the FIA WEC is that the media delegate, Jeff Carter, is a photographer too, so he understands the needs and creative values that photographers like to pursue. So apart from the briefing, I pretty much have complete creative freedom. Actually, the first time I got hired in motorsport was by Jeff, a very long time ago, and when I showed him the images, I’d made during the first day, he didn’t like them at all. He literally told me - go do your arty stuff, that’s what I want to see.
How did you end up as a photographer in motorsport?
I actually have a background in engineering. When I was growing up, it felt kind of natural that I would go into engineering, so I did that for a while, but I was always drawn to more creative stuff. I was always drawing, making concepts. After a few years, I decided to make the leap and start my own business. I developed a career shooting portraits and fashion. My passion was street photography. I loved to capture everyday life on the street. That’s how Jeff noticed me and asked me if I could join his FIA WEC photography staff.
What advice would you give to young (motorsport) photographers?
Get a camera you can do the job with. I mean, you don’t need the best camera in the world - a decent starter camera is great - but spend more on the glass because that’s what really makes the difference. When it comes to the photographs themselves, I think it’s important to make images that are different. Twenty photographers all standing on the inside of a corner will all get the same images. So, don’t be that guy or girl - try and find a different approach or angle.