Drag Illustrated Issue 173, December 2021 - Page 30


Shot by Shute

One of drag racing ’ s most dedicated photographers retires after 50 years By Kelly Wade

Esteemed drag racing photographer Richard Shute , who owns the famed Auto Imagery archive , celebrated his 50th year of professionally pointing the lens at drag cars and cataloging the history of the fastest accelerating machines on the planet in 2020 .

Shute , a longtime Southern California resident , first shot drag racing at close range with a simple 126 Instamatic , and he concluded his well-journeyed career in 2021 behind the lens of a state-of-the-art Nikon , freeze-framing the large and small moments in this sport that he has given his life .
Shute ’ s intention is that Auto Imagery will live on for years to come with his well-appointed staff , but the iconic photographer himself has bid the NHRA tour adieu .
Here is our interview with Shute discussing his early roots and what the drag racing scene has meant to his life .
Where did this all begin for you ?
I have an uncle who was four years older than me ; he was a senior in high school when I was a freshman . One day in 1965 , he said , “ Let ’ s go out to Fremont .” I said , “ What ’ s Fremont ?” So we jumped in his 1957 Chevy and went out there . I just fell in love with it . We were standing right next to the fence as the cars would push start and come to the road . You were literally within 8-12 feet of the car as it came by just rumbling on nitro . It got my attention , and I thought , I have to find a way to make this part of my life .
How soon were you able to make that a reality ?
Oh , from that point on , I would go out whenever I could . I started tearing out the center spreads of magazines and taping them to my wall . Photographers like Jere Alhadeff , Jim Kelly ,
Steve Reyes , Tim Marshall , Bob McClurg , and so many more – they were all my heroes . I just kept going and shooting on the sidelines , and then my parents moved to Mission Viejo , so I lived down the street from Orange County International Raceway . Dave Emanuel , our neighbor , was a writer for Car Craft magazine . He gave me a start in the sense that he got me a photo pass . That was 1971 .
Did you shoot for magazines , primarily ?
Well , a little publication called Drag Scoop picked me up , and I was the photo editor . But then CJ Hart hired me to be track photographer at Orange County Raceway , and I stayed there until late ‘ 77 or early ‘ 78 . One day , [ then-boss ] Bill Doner walked into the tower during one of the Fox Hunt events , and it was a case of “ wrong place , wrong time .” He asked what I was doing there , I told him I was trying to stay out of the way , and he said , “ Well , get out of here – and as a matter of fact , you ’ re fired .’ I got my stuff and left , and then March 2nd of 1979 I started Auto Imagery .
Now you have multiple photographers out there getting the shots for Auto Imagery clients and the archives , but what was the structure like then ? Was it just you ?
30 | Drag Illustrated | DragIllustrated . com Issue 173