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passion for cars in the lens

Rainer Schlegelmilch is a living legend in racing car photography. Between the years 1962 and 1973, he covered nearly all European Formula 1 Grand Prix and endurance races, particularly the 24 Hours of Le Mans or the Targa Florio.

55 YEARS OF CAREER, 15’000 monochrome photos and 600’000 in color, including 30’000 dedicated only to Michael Schumacher. The figures of Rainer Schlegelmilch’s collection make you dizzy. It was in 1962 that passion led him to his fabulous career. That year, for his final exam at the National School of Photography in Munich, he shot a series of portraits during the Nürburgring 1’000 kilometers. He will never leave the automotive world and will open his own studio a few months later.

The peculiarity of his work lies in his constant search for a link between man and mechanics. This is how we find glamorous, funny, curious or intimate images. He also “invented” the zoom shot, a technique he used to only take a full-face shot of riders’ helmets as they passed the finish line during the practices.

Awarded many times with publications such as “The golden Age of Formula 1”, “The Roaring 70 ‘” or “Formula 1 World Champions”, he traces the era of Graham Hill, Jo Siffert, Jochen Rindt and many others. Perhaps the most notable accolade he has received was the presentation of a Lifetime Grand Prix Photographer’s Pass, offered by Bernie Ecclestone during his 600th Grand Prix.

The exhibition of photos taken mainly in the 60’s is an immersion in a world of technology and driving artists who still make admirers dream of driving “with the guts”, when risks were much higher than nowadays. Schlegelmilch retraces highlights in unpublished, often moving photos. Back then, the riders were undoubtedly more chivalrous than they are today. There were more feelings expressed in a less formal way, as well as mutual aid and solidarity between these knights of the wheel. These heroes were also more accessible to ordinary people, and in particular photographers. Many of them became friends with Rainer Schlegelmilch.

RECOGNIZED BY HIS PEERS AND ENGINEERS

Rainer Schlegelmilch, in his constant search for originality, started from 1975 always at one practice session of the Monaco Grand Prix, standing on the same place and photographing all cars the same angle from above. A technique that made it possible to see the evolution of car modifications over the years and that has benefited many racing engineers to study driving dynamics, at a time when telemetry obviously did not exist. Experts have also renamed the curve where the photographer was stationed “Curve Schlegelmilch”.

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The industry has also embraced Schlegelmilch’s work. In 2017, Rainer was fortunate that the world’s biggest motorsport picture archive “Motorsport Images” offered him to take care of his lifework and to provide thousands of new scans and tagging in publications for the international motorsport family. Companies like Philip Morris, Mobil, Champion, Shell and Red Bull used pictures of the German photographer to promote their products. German photographer to promote their products. And of course, several car brands, including Mercedes, BMW, Porsche and Ferrari, took photos from the collection and edited calendars. Schlegelmilch a lui-même publié un calendrier perpétuel à l’occasion du 10e anniversaire de la mort d’Ayrton Senna. A series of spectacular and poignant photos in tribute to the immense Brazilian pilot.

Schlegelmilch himself published a perpetual calendar to mark the 10th anniversary of Ayrton Senna’s death.

The public is not forgotten. Giant prints of a few photos are currently on display at Bucherer’s Pre Owned Watches space in Geneva. They will then be moved, still at Bucherer’s in Zurich. Ralph Jahns is the initiator and the curator of this exhibition.

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