Behind the wheel – and the lens – with car photographer Amy Shore | Top Gear
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Tuesday 26th September
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Behind the wheel – and the lens – with car photographer Amy Shore

From her love of shooting and restoring classic cars to how Shell V-Power fuels her passion, Amy shares what makes her tick

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Amy, you were surrounded by cars from a young age. What are some of your early memories?

Probably having Formula One bits all over my lawn as a child, because my dad used to work with Team Lotus in the wind tunnel and later as a spray man. I remember in the summer holidays I would draw a line down the centre of the pavement, so it looked like a road, and I’d force my brother to go on the left side, with me on the right, and we’d race our bikes because I wanted to drive so badly. We lived in the country, so on my 17th birthday, my parents gave me my first driving lesson, which was super exciting. I wasn’t necessarily a car lover yet, but they were a huge part of my life and my avenue to freedom at that age.

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Did you always appreciate a good-looking car?

As a young girl, it wasn’t that I couldn’t like cars, but it wasn’t ever something I was encouraged towards. But there was always something about classic cars that even as a child made me think, that's cool. Then, when I was 19, I bought my classic Mini because I thought they were super, super cool. Plus, at that age, it was cheaper to ensure a classic car than a Peugeot 106. Back then I didn’t even have the knowledge to fix cars – I’d just be like “Dad, please fix my car” and luckily, he’d help me, always making sure I was there while he was working on it.

Photographing cars was something I had no intention of doing, but I found my dream job doing it

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How did you get into photography?

I was quite an impatient child, but also creative. Photography was a great way of getting that creativity out quickly because you take one picture and you've created a thing within a split second. When I was younger, digital photography was still early on, so we all had the little handheld cameras and I just would take mine with me everywhere from the age of 12-13, photographing holidays, house parties when I was a older, everything really.

I was interested then, but I didn’t think it was realistic to actually strive for a job in it, because I’d never met a full-time photographer who didn’t say “It’s hard to get work.” To me, it was about as realistic as saying I wanted to be an actor. It was just a hobby.

So, how did you go from a hobby to a career photographing cars?

After I graduated, I was still properly into photography, and by that point I was thinking maybe I’d do weddings at weekends. Then some friends of my dad’s that he used to work with got together to rebuild this replica Ferrari P4 from the 1960s, and I got the chance to shoot it.

I had never shot a car in my life, so looking at it purely from a visual point of view, I realised it was an object I’d never properly looked at before – how the light falls on the curves, the geometry of the wheels and the body. I was trying to really appreciate it as a piece of art. Before then, photographing cars was something I had no intention of doing, but I found my dream job doing it.

Shoot what you love, not necessarily what you feel like you’re meant to shoot

How would you describe your photography style. Has it evolved over time?

I would describe my work as photojournalism. I’m documenting the situation, but I’m trying to do it from a heartfelt point of view. If I’m photographing an event like the Goodwood Revival, for example, I’m following a brief. But one of my favourite ever photographs came when it rained and there were all these puddles on the ground by the cars. I thought it would be great to capture a reflection of someone walking past, and a couple happened to stop just in the right place and kiss.

It's about the cars, but it’s also about those little touches and moments. A driver might have their hands behind their back holding their racing gloves, or their helmet resting up against their wife’s handbag. So, for me, it’s more about the real feelings and emotions rather than just what’s on the brief.

Any tips for budding car photographers?

Shoot what you love, not necessarily what you feel like you’re meant to shoot. Otherwise, you’ll just be like every bog-standard car photographer out there. Try and find some emotion and context to every shot, and if it’s something you’re passionate about, that’ll shine through in the photographs.

More practically, I’d say don’t shoot with a lens that’s too wide, because you’ll start to distort the car. Car designers tend to design from roughly headlight height, so to really capture it, just drop down a little bit depending on how low down the car is. One more thing is, always try to get the car away from the car park and into a more interesting context like some country roads.

We just thought, let’s give it a go, and started our Jaguar restoration workshop together

Photography has taken you on quite the journey, what have been your highlights?

Probably just the absolutely ridiculous adventures I’ve found myself on with people. I met a journalist very early on in my career, who I’m still good friends with now, and whenever he talked about travelling round the world, crashing cars in India, I thought – wow, you’re so cool, I hope when I’m in my mid-60s I’ll be able to tell these stories. But I’ve got to 30, and already have a lot! I’m so grateful for the people I’ve met and the things I’ve seen.

My favourite assignment was probably driving from Athens to Oxford in three Minis – a classic, a 20-year-old one and a brand-new one as backup. We went through Greece, Serbia and about 13 countries in all over two weeks. I’d be walking through crowds somewhere at night getting photographs and just thinking, how on earth am I here doing this, and getting paid for it?!

You’ve spoken about your 1985 Mini, but it sounds like you’ve accumulated quite the garage at home?

My 30th birthday present from my other half, Will, was a 1974 MGB GT in off-white – beautiful thing, and it has my name and business written on the side, which is fun. Plus, it sounds wicked because it’s got a custom E-Type exhaust on it. It didn’t run when he picked it up, but because he’s a car guy, he made it work. I’ve also got a 1990 Jaguar XJS Le Mans edition, which is in British racing green.

I’ve got my Land Rover Defender 110, canvas-backed, which I adopted and is now definitely mine. We use it as a tow car, so it looks pretty cool when you’ve got a farm-worn, battered and scratched Defender with an open trailer carrying an E-Type in the back! I’m quite into my motorbikes, so I’ve got a couple of them as well – a 1972 Honda 350 and a 1965 BSA Bantam, which was an old Post Office bike, so it’s bright red with gold trim. My newest car is a 2002 BMW 330D Grand Touring in Oxford green, which is my daily run-around. Green is definitely my colour!

How did you wind up running a vintage Jag restoration workshop with your husband?

We met and moved in together all over lockdown, and eight months into our relationship his dad gave us the keys to the workshop they ran together. We just thought, let’s give it a go, and started our business together. We’d hired a member of staff before we’d even been to the cinema or had an Indian together! It’s hilarious really.

I would totally recommend using Shell V Power, whatever your car is

What informs your process when tackling a restoration?

We’re now a year and half in, and we have three full-time mechanics, two apprentices and an admin person, so I’ve taken a step back, because as a photographer I’m just always busy. Because of Will’s heritage (his grandfather Bill Heynes designed and developed the original XK engine), his knowledge of the of the very first E-Types that were ever built is genuinely world-leading. He gets very nerdy!

Our mission is to keep everything totally original, and keep all of the car’s integrity and character, while making it drive as new. We’ll leave details like the seats and switches patinaed if we can, while of course making sure they still work and comply with all the safety requirements. It’s hard to restore cars in a way that retains all their adventures and stories, but that’s very much our product. We’ve always got Jags coming out of our ears.

And finally, all those classic machines must be thirsty. Do you use premium fuels?

Any classic car we drive, or supercar we borrow, we only use Shell V-Power. The cars just run a hell of a lot better. And now that it can clean critical engine parts up to 100%, which I didn’t know, it makes me even more glad that we do. I would totally recommend using Shell V-Power, whatever your car is. Will even once told me off for using supermarket petrol, so I know how important it is to look after your engine!

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