Since 2014, things in the racing media world have slightly shifted. The main reason being the rise of the FIA Formula E championship – a series that strives and needs to be different. This has also brought a new generation of media representatives with it. As well as a number of independent blogs, who have arguably become the number one source for Formula E news, a lot photographers have entered the scene. Some of the very best work with Spacesuit Media. We had a chat with their founder Ross Ringham and the Artistic Director Shivraj Gohil to dive into Spacesuit's story.
15th May 2014. At the circuit in Donington Park, the first ten Formula E were officially handed over from the series to their new owners – one car for each team. Present were of course Formula E's CEO Alejandro Agag and representatives from the teams as well as journalists and photographers to cover the story. Among them were Ross Ringham and Shivraj Gohil. Their first collaboration should be the start of a long-lasting professional relationship that would turn into Spacesuit Media two years later.
Ross, at that time a journalist, called Shiv for support with photography, and – as things happen with a bit of networking – Mahindra Racing turned out to be their first client. Soon after, pretty much every other Formula E team jumped on the bandwagon and Ross & Shiv were providing almost the whole paddock with images. Since more work also requires more manpower, additional photographers like Dan Bathie & Marta Rovatti Studihrad joined the team and went since on to have great careers in the racing and automotive fields.
Bear in mind that Spacesuit hasn't yet been officially founded at that time. That step came in April 2016 and since then the squad has worked with countless teams, drivers and brands, both inside and outside of Formula E and racing altogether. As of now, the company consists of six people (including for example communications and financing) and has a network of 20 photographers and videographers across seven countries.
What originally drove Shivraj into motorsport are the stories it writes. Shiv's background couldn't be more different though. He has graduated in graphic design and is a third-generation wedding photographer, now running the business his grandfather has started more than 40 years ago. This also taught him many important aspects that are valuable for motorsport photography as well; for example how to make people look great when they're not posing and when the light conditions aren't optimal. "You have one chance to get some of those shots so you learn to make the most of your situation and nail each shot." Shiv's involvement in motorsport began as a fan visiting some Formula One races as well as test days, taking pictures from the grandstands. These were noticed by Badger GP and from there by Ross. The rest is history.
"When you stop to think about it, racing is really about the people. It’s the rivalries, the friendships and the unbelievable achievements of the drivers, engineers and managers which really gets fans hooked".
So, how do racing cars and spacesuits go together? There's obviously no direct connection, but spacesuits do bring certain connotations with them – for example adventure and technology. "We wanted to capture the spirit of human adventure, that place where the limits of human endeavour and technology meet."
But this is only the visible, tangible layer. Spacesuit was founded with values that go beyond this. "We wanted to be known for our integrity, for our ethical approach, for the way we treat our photographers as our most valuable resource. We wanted to represent the talent of our photographers, rather than be a faceless agency."
Making people look great when they’re not posing requires a lot of foresight – anticipating where they’re going to, how they’re going to act, when they’ll step into the light and make that once-per-day unconscious expression that’s perfect for the photo.
As often happens when starting to freelance or building an agency, the commissions were there before the company was founded. Even when you consider this, Spacesuit's growth has been remarkably quick. However, that doesn't mean there wasn't any trouble along the way. With the things Ross and Shiv learned from their Spacesuit adventure so far, they have plenty of advice to give.
Mainly, that success is the result of a lot of hard continuous work. "We’ve been the first ones into the media centre and the last ones to leave at more events than I care to remember! We’ve never been satisfied with images that are merely “ok”."
Critical feedback and rejection are also part of the process. It's often really hard to get your foot in. And even if you've already established a relationship, that doesn't mean it will carry on forever – despite all the hard and good work. In any case, it's important to stay professional. "Move on and do so with dignity – and be open to working with anyone in the future." Their main piece of advice though is to love your job.
"Above all, be passionate about what you do. In a job like ours, it’s clear when someone really cares about each frame they take or when they’re simply waiting for payday."