GEOFFREY GODDARD [Born 24/7/1929, died 24/4/2006], LOTUS AND MOTOR SPORT PHOTOGRAPHY.
The Telegraph Obituary of Goddard commented:
“ His own photography captured uniquely the majesty of motor sport with natural scenery. He loved classic settings ………and especially …….the Sicilian Targa Florio.”
From another source it was said of his work with Nye “Ferrari in Camera”:
“Madly exclusive, outrageously expensive, exquisitely printed and brilliantly evocative”
Geoffrey Goddard was one of the foremost photographers of motor sport. His career spanning three decades included the Golden post war era that was dominated by Britain and in particular Lotus through the late 1950’s and 60’s.
In this article we will explore some of the context and possible sources of inspiration. We do not know much about Goddard other than the Telegraph Obituary that seems to be based on a brief autobiography [First Steps] that Goddard gave in “Track Pass” but we will attempt to make some extrapolations through the history of the era.
Goddard left a major body of work in his photographs and we will examine a few of these in greater detail to gain some insight into the aesthetics and sensitises of the man.
Much of our appreciation of the drama and indeed the beauty of motor sport is a result of Goddard’s imagination and technical skill. He remains something of a modest unassuming man behind the lens.
Contemporary Photographers /London context of the Era
We often allude to the fact that London was the post war epicentre of motor sport. This was significantly reinforced graphically by the artistic vision aesthetic and interpretative quality that pervaded the era. It was given expression through the presence of the press, magazines, graphic / promotional art and photographers.
The GPO Film [Documentary] Unit was also a major source of artistic interpretation and insight / expression [frequently vying between poetic and realism]
It is possibly Picture Post that is most redolent of this period. Their images were the work of the likes of:
- Kurt Hutton
- Francis Reiss
- Thurston Hopkins
- Grace Robertson
Motor Racing Exponents
- George Monkhouse
- Laurie Morton
- Nigel Snowdon
- Michael Turner [Artist –also see A&R article]
- Louis Klemantaski [pre and post war]
- Michael Cooper
Readers are also recommended to see A&R article on Bridget Bishop and to make direct comparisons with Goddard when they both captured the same Lotus subject at a similar moment in time.
Equally the A&R article on the Festival of Britain will immerse the reader in the social and cultural atmosphere of Post War Britain.
Goddard was central to the best .The media, the circuits and manufacturers.
Living in Ealing he was only a matter of miles from:
- Fleet Street and associated press and magazine infrastructure
- Lotus, Aston Martin, Cooper, Elva etc major manufacturers and specialist support engineers. [E.g. Park Royal Industrial Estate Complex] Vanwall were based at Acton just two miles away.
- Crystal Place circuit in South London [see A&R article]
- Transport hubs and connections particularly Heathrow which would have enabled him to fly to international destinations to cover events.
- Ealing Studios were on his doorstep. [Source of film and documentary and BBC for a time]. Ealing studios had been in existence since 1902. Some of their most famous as consistent work was produced post war and fondly remembered as the series of “The Ealing comedies”
Goddard was born on the 24/7/1929 in Heston, near Hounslow, South West London [close to Heathrow]. His parents were of modest means. Goddard confirms that they lived in Sunbury for a brief period but also spent time in and around West London and settled in West Ealing. His official stamp [and this might have been the family / parental home] bears the address [home still exists see editors photograph]:
35 Balmoral Gardens, Ealing, W13.
Phone. Ealing 3942.
Goddard was a year younger than Colin Chapman and their lives and experiences were closely linked. They shared much in common from an interest in mechanical things [Chapman made model planes; Goddard loved Meccano] geographical proximity to periods in the armed forces which neither liked very much] Evidently both men had strong aesthetic appreciation.
About the age of 18 possible at time he undertook National Service Goddard took up photography. He also significantly obtained his RAC competition licence. [He would have therefore appreciated the vision of the car and competition directly from the cockpit]. It’s believed that Geoff also was briefly apprenticed to Frazer Nash whom then was locally based at Isleworth, Middlesex. [Falcon Works, London Road] Additional employment included brief spells as car salesman at Chequered Flag, Chiswick and Northfields Motors, Ealing.
Goddard may have met and been influenced by Louis Klemantaski. He admits to having been inspired by his work “Scrapbook” [Motor Racing Publications] and by Earl Howe’s book “Motor Racing” [Lonsdale Library Book]
His entry to the profession seems to date from c1950 an in particular attendance at Goodwood Easter meeting of that year. His first published photograph was in Iota July 1951.
In his early twenties he had become Chief Photographer for “Motor Racing “ and later contributed to “Road &Track”
At “Motor Racing” he joined Doug Nye and they made a formidable team.
We do not know the circumstances of this appointment. Certainly in the early 1950’s gifted amateurs would have easier breaks than today.
Goddard in “Track Pass” is very candid and admits, “I certainly never had any training as a photographer”
“Motor Racing” is described, as the official organ of the BRSCC .It is believed that it was first published in 1954 and was the successor of “Iota”. It is thought to have continued publication into the 1970’s.Of course the magazine was London based. Doug Nye is one of the greatest motoring journalists and authors. He has over seventy books to his name. Including “The Story of Lotus 1961-1971”] He joined “Motor Racing” in his late teens. The pairing with Goddard was therefore very youthful.
Some of his most impressive work appeared in print with Doug Nye [see below]
Geoff states he initially used a borrowed Voigtlander Vito 35mm and later used a second hand Leica IIIA.
Around this time with help from a relative he was driving an M.G.PB
At some point it seems Geoff’s parents opened a travel agent; Minikins, 162 The Broadway, West Ealing. [The editor has been able to identify and confirm this from Kemps Directory . Also in the library are a series of period photographs of the Uxbridge Road, West Ealing dated 1955 **. Some readers or students may be interested in the period ambience and the direct comparison with Hornsey in the same era and when GG was taking photographs at Tottenham Lane. Geoff informs us that part of the shop may have been used for selling cameras and photography supplies; this would have been complementary and an income side line whilst giving Goddard the ability to experiment possibly in both the artistic and technical aspects of photography and developing. [See advertisement from Kemps]. There were certainly several professional photographers in Ealing during the 1950’s. [Possible off shoot of Ealing studios or undertaking commercial photography consistent with Britain’s economic growth]
In the early 1950’s he knew and on occasions assisted Patrick Stephens who had a motor sport bookshop in London.
Significantly it’s believed some of Goddard’s work was used by Shell. They were London based, sponsored motor sport and had a reputation for some posters that were avant-garde and in the vanguard of graphic commercial poster art.
In the 1970’s Goddard contributed to and photography consultant to Motor Sport Year Book; edited by Barrie Gill [nb 1972 and 1974 prefaced as John Player and featured colour pictures of JPS Lotus on front covers]
Geoff Goddard had wide ranging taste and his interests included golf, traditional jazz and classical music. He is known to have saved and collected precious archive of early motor racing photography. He must also have been well organised to catalogue/ identify and retrieve the thousands of negatives he held. By definition he was well travelled.
In the 1980’s the Goddard family had moved to Ascot in Berkshire.
Lotus and Goddard
Geoff Goddard’s work appeared in “Lotus the First Ten Years”. Included are photographs of:
- “The Bristol engine in Mike Anthony’s Mark 10”
- “The disc brakes on the Mark 10”
- “The Eleven in course of construction. In top left hand corner Nobby Clark can be seen supervising the work and above his head runs the girder supporting the rather cramped stores”
- Three Elevens lined up on display outside the showroom office*. [They have all been fitted with wiper blades to the screens] Note this view seems to be taken from a height and looks slightly down. The black and white image brings out the full form and function of the cars. Behind inside the showroom the Elite is on display making reference to Lotus status as manufacturer of road and racecars.
Our readers are invited to look at A&R photographs [and article “The Works, where there are both photographs and working drawings illustrating the Tottenham Lane premises] of the scene today and will realise how little has changed and why Tottenham Lane remains the first choice for the proposed CCM&EC.
Goddard’s photographs will date from 1955 through to possibly 1957. The editors recommend direct comparison with A&R article of photography by Bridget Bishop there are some interesting similarities.
For Geoff Goddard it would have been a very short ten-mile journey from West Ealing [via Uxbridge Road &The North Circular] to Hornsey. Its also very possible that Goddard was meeting Colin Chapman and Lotus personnel at the race circuits and other London venues like the Racing Car show.
He continued photographing Lotus through the 1960’s and 70. As evidenced by publication in Motor Sport Year Book.
The Artistic content of the Photographs
The editor has analysed the photographic work used to illustrate the books published jointly with Doug Nye [see reference section]. This amounts to approximately 920 mainly black and white and colour images. The subject/content includes a wide variety:
- Strong close ups racing action
- Observation with sense of humour
- Background content including architecture “ A sense of place” with weather, mood etc
- Humanist pictures “populated”
- Mixture of Formula I, Sports Racing cars
- Action shots
- Technical close ups and “still life” –editors description- emphasis on composition?
- Driver portrait and personalities
The editor noted these broad themes and locations [circuits]:
- Targa Florio
- Le Mans
Also detected in Goddard’s work are the following qualities and sense of:
- Technical interest of subject and or possibly and appreciation of form and function; the “architecture or sculpture”
- Sense of speed and drama
- Willingness to share and participate [i.e. connecting with audience through aspects of photography which whilst being democratic are also possibly very commercial in this market?
- Bravery in relation to position and location
- Variety and effort to seek out differing perspectives
- Composition using a hierarchical structure and “architecture” possibly deferring to classical composition volume dispositions.
- A sense of mood and moment along with a sense of place i.e. a greater sense of awareness and connection with unique.
- Humanity that sees pictures populated, children’s wonder and awe and the occasional sense of humour.
- A feeling or intuition for the “Still Life” and accent on pure composition and palette that communicates so much without reference to speed, power or danger. An intellectual insightful reflective analysis. In some of his work the editor notes the possibility of an artists or painters technique and “feel”
- Images that are sharp, crisp and are animated to entertain
- The ability to handle black & white and colour with equal dexterity. The author attributes these to Goddard’s sense of eye. In his best B&W your almost able to paint in the colours because he has captured tonal values.
The editor had a particular affection for Goddard’s technical detailed studies and as mentioned the “Still Life”.
Perhaps most of all Goddard captured an era; a bygone era with its distinctive envelope and its atmospheric ambience. A relaxed informal time when proximity was permitted. He openly admits that safety concerns would not permit similar photography today.
The editor selects the following images from “Track Pass” and “Ferrari in Camera” for detailed analysis and as perhaps representing highlights:
Track Pass – 1971 Monaco Grand Prix.J.Stewart, Tyrell, Tir aux Pigeons.
- Black and white square format image
- Practically atmospheric / impressionistic imagery and by necessity restricted palette [in confines of tunnel but making using of extreme contrast] to heighten drama.
- This image just relies on single a racing car that in turn is relatively small and indistinct in overall frame. The image emphasises the sense of enclosure /encirclement
- Goddard uses to dramatic affect the brilliant light in offset oval opening of tunnel indicating the sudden and violent contrast the driver would experience
- The lights in the tunnel are picked out as specks and follow the curving domed roof
- Impact relies in the shadow light contrasts
- The overall picture talks to the viewer and commutates the often loneliness in midst of race, its contrasts and millisecond changes of mood, scene and condition and not least in this view the deafening aural acoustic produced by the rebound of engine / exhaust note.
- With the passage of time we tend to perhaps view this type image with greater nostalgia and sympathy.
Track Pass- 1955 August Goodwood
- Black and white
- Radical and unconventional composition for era. Unusual composition angle and sense of framing [possibly showing artists eye] and self-confidence to experiment or break convention.
- Hierarchical compositional devise with strong distinct foreground, middle distance and receding background
- Foreground focus given to reaper blades and stacked wheat sheaves. The sports racing cars are evident but this picture has been rendered to tell a story and alludes to landscape though which race is conducted and which drivers will be aware. This landscape adds interest.
- Highly redolent of specific circuit, pastoral and parochial. A very “English” image that rather alludes to pervading iconography of this period [see Picture Post]
- Observation post in background provides balance with strong vertical mass in overall composition.
- The weather and sky in this image also reflects Goddard’s sympathy with time and place and feeling for the context envelope in which picture is wrapped.
Track Pass -1952 Goodwood, Mike Hawthorn, Cooper Bristol
- Black and white image with considerable texture and tonal contrast.
- Almost head on but slightly off centre composition in classical proportional disposition of volumes
- Nearly equal attention/ focus of driver and machine
- Blurred background suggesting speed [probable function of aperture and speed to freeze image]
- Accurate rendition of Hawthorns characteristic driving style and reflecting technical handling qualities of machine.
- Viewer/ audience lives the moment and shares experience through proximity of image. Note this is interesting paradox that although image seen head on the viewer identifies with driver impression/perception commuted to drivers vision. I.e. the drivers vision unobtainable but delivered through intense close up and engagement.
Track Pass-1955 Le Mans Mike Hawthorn ‘D’ Type Jaguar [774 RW]
- Black white near square picture format
- Image of crystal clear clarity
- Texture and tonal values trigger and invite mind to colour and walk into scene
- Picture composition with well defined hierarchy of foreground, middle distance and background
- Story or plot has cars enter and leave picture. Here a ‘static image’ almost rendered as if moving footage.
- Animated populated middle distance giving human element /story to composition
- Trees and falling light assist viewer feel sense of time and place without prior knowledge. [I.e. image deductive]
- Particularly lyrical moment, a passing moment .An indelible engraving that transports those not privileged to witness the scene direct, to a place where they might observe and commentate. [In simple terms it puts them behind the lens]
Ferrari in Camera – 1965 Monaco Grand Prix. Lorenzo Bandini, Ferrari
- Exquisite colour image
- Driver couches to left holds chassis for balance and visually examines car
- Sharp defined, incisive, engraved detail of the horology type engine construction but also including cockpit
- Bright light captures and emphasises polished alloy carburettor trumpets and gauze filters which provide strong visual focus
- Contrasting colours and textures and detail of distinctive tyre tread pattern. Blood red Ferrari body side and white race numbers
- Subtle light modulation and gradation evidenced on drivers silver helmet and overalls
- Small details complementing whole like texture of string back racing gloves
- Formal composition gradually fades out towards periphery
- A composition of remarkable understatement calm, serenity, executed brilliantly reflecting an all pervading stillness but redolent of innate power
Ferrari in Camera – 1962 German Grand Prix, Ferrari 156
- Captioned as “Peaceful Pit Scene” Goddard has captured and reinforced this totally and emphatically.
- Colour image
- Lyrical use of falling light and shadow modulation across image
- Relaxed informal impact by contrast calm before the storm [both nature sport and artistic composition / handling/ rendition]
- Strong forced deliberate diagonal compositional devise
- Central focus on machine and in particular cockpit and steering wheel/ rev-counter
- Mechanics “frozen” in routine maintenance and checks. Lone female sits on pit wall possibly preparing lap counting. Photographers animated mill round
- Onlookers unobtrusive overlook balcony from above
- Circuit observation tower balances and centralises composition .It also serves to arrest and hold receding perspective
- A moment of joy and calm rendered and distilled; bathed in light.
The Telegraph 13 May 2006 [Obituaries]
A&R Articles: Social &Economic History [Festival of Britain, GPO Film Unit], Bridget Bishop’s photography and The Fine Art of Motor Sport series.
Books by Goddard and Nye:
The Classic Single Seaters: Great Racing Cars of the Donnington Collection
Classic Racing Cars
Track Pass: Photographers View of Motor Racing 1950-1980*
The Crowood Press 1990
Ferrari In Camera [note 1000 copied printed. British Library copy No.695]
Palawan Press 1995
The British Library. [The extremely helpful institution that holds all books mentioned above and where editor was able to conduct majority of research. Shelf No.’s on request]
Kemps Directory of Ealing [Annual c 1955 -1960] Research Ealing Local History Section main Library. See also local photographs** with code T275 dated 11.2.55. Readers may also wish to use www.multimap.com and look at aerial pictures.
Goddard’s photograph of Lotus Eleven at Hornsey*
Lotus The First Ten Years by Smith*
John Player Motor Sport Year Book Ed Barrie Gill 1972 &74 .The Queen Ann Press*
*A&R Library Copy.