Keith Sutton, the founder and Managing Director of Sutton Images, is today celebrating a personal milestone. Keith attended his first Grand Prix as a photographer 30 years ago at the Zolder circuit in Belgium, and he traces the origins of his company directly to that event, won on May 4 1980 by Ligier driver Didier Pironi.
“It all happened because of a National Union of Journalists strike,” Keith recalls. “At the time my good friend Mike Doodson was Sports Editor of Motor magazine, Britain’s top-selling car weekly, and to cover the Grand Prix he would normally have taken a staff photographer with him to Belgium. Fortunately for me, an industrial dispute had been called. The staff man was a union member, but Mike wasn’t, and neither was I, so I got the job. It was a great opportunity and an eye-opening event for me.”
At the age of 20, Keith was working as a photographer’s assistant in a Manchester studio. He had started attending races at Oulton Park, selling black-and-white prints to competitors at 50p each. “One of my shots was of an Alfasud, which had been tipped on to two wheels, driven by Rex Greenslade, who was then the Road Test editor at Motor.
“It was through Rex that I met Mike, who had completed his training as a chartered accountant in Manchester. We had lots of things in common besides our origins in the Northwest, and we have been close friends ever since. Even so, I sometimes wonder how I would have got started as a professional motor racing photographer if it hadn’t been for that union dispute and Mike’s invitation to me all those years ago.
“Turning up in Zolder for my first Grand Prix with an F1 credential was an experience I will never forget. Meeting and talking with the experienced F1 photographers with their IRPA (International Racing Press Association) armbands encouraged me to work hard and fulfill my ambition to become a full-time F1 photographer.”
In the intervening 30 years Keith has covered over 400 Grands Prix. Supported by his brother Mark and all the Sutton Images staff, the company has grown to become the World’s Largest Independent Motorsport Photographic Agency, with an unrivalled reputation within the industry and a globally renowned archive stretching back to the 1960’s. Over 4 million images chart the history of the sport with in excess of 650,000 images now available for download from its pioneering Picture Desk website http://www.sutton-images.com
With the 2010 F1 season now in full swing and continuing its 60th anniversary celebrations Keith Sutton looks forward to further successes for Sutton Images into the 21st century.