Chances are, if you’ve attended an endurance motor race in Europe since 2002, Eric Fabre will have taken a picture of it (the race obviously, not you). A professional photographer for more than 20 years, the native Frenchman has seen racing action with the European Le Mans Series, the World Endurance Championship, the Blancpain Endurance Series and the FIA GT Championship, headline series one and all. On home turf, he’s shot the prestigious Andros Trophy, a French national ice racing championship that boasts former Formula 1 champion Alain Prost and former World Touring Car Champion Yvan Muller in its alumni. In 2008, he even popped over to the UAE for some Speedcar action at the Dubai Autodrome. Regular readers then may already be familiar with his name on crankandpiston.com, and we felt it about time to see what life was like with Eric Fabre Behind the Lens.[Not a valid template]
Eric, there’s a lot of series to go through but let’s start off at the beginning. What got you into professional photography?
“Well I got my first camera in 1982 – a Canon AE1 program – and this was shortly before I went to Lebanon with the United Nations. So you can imagine how many pictures I managed to get under those conditions!
“It was more than ten years later – 1993 I think – that I finally got my first job as a professional photographer. And in the beginning I focused mainly on mountain sports and ice races in my native France, and spent quite a lot of time with mountain rescue teams like PGHM (Peloton de Gendarmerie de Haute Montagne) and CRS Alpes. That was a really amazing experience.”
Bit of a change to your endurance motorsport work then…
“Quite a bit! In fact I didn’t start focusing on motorsport until 1995, and this was mainly hill climbs and local – and the occasional international rally or rally raid. I enjoyed that very much and still follow rallying when I can” – in 2011, Eric made the trip to Pikes Peak – but over the last few years, I’ve concentrated on endurance racing.
“And Le Mans. Obviously Le Mans! Endurance racing has such a great atmosphere, but the 24 Hours of Le Mans is something else. It’s just one of those races that is so filled with passion, has so many professionals working hard to achieve their goals, and there’s always a great spirit at the circuit thanks to such a magnificent heritage.”
I’m assuming then, even during your Middle East tour and whilst you were rescuing people from high altitude, you were still a big fan of motor racing early on…
“Always. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a fan of motorsport. And of course working so closely with teams and series organisers – there really is a great ‘family’ vibe – helps keep the enthusiasm there: in 1992 at Nogaro, I even got a go in a Formula Renault car.
“But I think I’ve always preferred endurance racing. It’s been fascinating to watch the development of racing machinery, especially in front-line series like the WEC and FIA GTs before that. As a photographer, I love shooting beautiful cars in these beautiful places each series travels to. Plus endurance races quite often gives me access to historic racing (again, we’re going back to Le Mans mainly) and I’ve always loved shooting classic motor racers. I’d love to dedicate more time to that if I had the time and money.”
What is it about endurance racing that fascinates you? What kind of feelings you have during a race weekend?
“Prime importance is get as many shots as I can: track action, driver portraits, pit lane atmosphere, etc. Much as this motorsport photography is a cool hobby, this is my job too. I have to create a full set of pictures for my customers. But I always want to make sure that my images are a little different to what you normally see.”
Any events in particular that stand out for you?
“The Paris-Dakar rally in Morocco (and Burkina Fasso, in 2001 I think) was unlike anything I’d ever experienced: the atmosphere was just incredible and the attrition unbelievable. I’ve also done Le Mans every year since 2001, and it’s difficult not to get emotional about this event. Of course there was the FIA GT1 race in Beijing in 2011 when somebody stole my MarkIV and a 16/35mm from the press room. I could have done without that…”
Hopefully the miserable git left the rest of your camera bag intact…
“Fortunately yes, but I don’t use anything wildly radical: two Canon EOS MkIV, a 500mm, a 70/200 mm, a 8/15mm, a 17/35mm, a Polarizer filter and a laptop. That’s all I need during a race weekend. This year though I’m hoping to start working with a new Fuji X-T1. I’m keen to get closer to the teams in the garage, and grab pictures of the drivers and the mechanics more discreetly. I think news cameras like the Fuji ones are really good now. Plus Canon (or Nikon) stuff is usually quite big, quite heavy and too expensive. To carry all that around the world is not easy, especially when I have a monopod to lug about too.”
Presumably you’ll be busy with the motorsport season now that it’s started off, but – aside from another memorable Le Mans and hopefully a securely locked camera bag – is there anything you’re hoping to achieve in 2015?
“The hunt is on for more motorsport clients this year (I’m hoping to get more involved with the World Endurance Championship) and I hope to sell more art prints from my collection. I also have a range of Race and Win watches – dedicated to legendary team names – that I’m hoping to promote further this year.
“I was very proud this year to place second in the fifth edition of the Sarthe Endurance photo contest. Let’s hope for a little more success this year!”