picture of Ted surrounded by pictures

(Re-published by kind permission of Classic and Sports Car Magazine)

Collecting old motor racing photographs has become fashionable for wealthy enthusiasts. Sadly, the term 'art' is too regularly used to label the photographic talents of such famous lensmen as Klemantaski, Alexander and Zagari, and the price of original prints has escalated as dealers hype the market.

Thankfully there are enthusiasts - one is Ted Walker of Ferret Fotographics - who live in the real world. Walker's stall at race meetings is a mobile archive of racing history. He charges just 5 a print and his amazing range, all presented in marque boxes, comes from a massive stock of more than a million negatives. Unlike other photographic specialists, Walker prints his own pictures: "Half the fun of old photographs is the processing," he says. "I've been printing pictures since I was a kid and I still get a buzz watching the image come up in the darkroom."

Walker's passion for motor racing started with his father who ran a garage in Bnstol. "During the 1930s he built several Austin Seven specials and after the war he got involved with Joe Fry and the 500cc movement. My father used to drive around in pre war sports cars Indianapolis Bentley and an Alfa 1750".

"At an early age I started to collect programmes and, when aged 10, was given a book called Speed Camera, a guide to motor racing photography. By 1962 I had a camera and, on trips with dad to Prescott, started taking pictures. I set up my own darkroom and soon dad's friends and customers were asking for pictures. I started writing for press passes and regularly cycled the 15 miles to our local circuit, Castle Combe."

Walker trained as an engineering draughtsman and motor racing photography remained only a hobby until five years ago when pictures became a business. Now he has the largest private collection of negatives. "Over the years at circuits I got to know most of the photographers and the first big collection I bought was Harold Barker's who covered club events from 1948-'90. Then came the negatives of Michael Cooper-Evans, who travelled extensively with Rob Walker, and later Evan Selwyn Smith. He was the BRSCC's photographer since the '50s and had portraits of all the drivers. The day after The Great Train Robbery the police were on to him asking for pictures of Roy James, which later appeared on the front page of the Daily Mirror."

Walker's pre war negatives were taken by James Brymer, a wealthy amateur who regularly travelled with Bill Boddy: "His transport was a Riley tourer and even on winter rallies he never put the hood up. Very few of his negatives were ever printed."

Ferret's impressive collection also features rallying and American events. Recently Ted acquired the work of Richard Pelatowsky who covered east coast racing in the late '50s: "Auctions are a good source but now people come to me. I've discovered negatives in the strangest places. At a car boot sale near Gloucester I found a box of glass plate negatives of Brooklands and on holidays I always scour antique shops."

"I really enjoy researching the picture subject and try not to sell prints without a caption. Many of my customers are restorers who use them for reference."

Walker is still pinching himself that his hobby has turned into a full time business. He now travels the world selling pictures and soon heads to San Diego for the Coronado Classic Speed Festival: "The best part of all is the people I meet. Tony Brooks and Phil Hill are just two drivers who have come to me to find pictures. It doesn't get any better than hearing their stories first hand."
Mick Walsh.

Ferret Fotographics, The Old Bull, 5 Woodmancote, Dursley, Glos. GL11 4AF England. Tel/Fax: 44 (0)1453 543243