This interview was originally published in 2016.
Amy Shore is a photographer based in Leicestershire, England, and she’s found herself elbow deep in mind-bendingly beautiful vintage cars. (If you’re not yet familiar, do yourself a solid and follow her on Instagram.) Her work is some of the most striking and artful automotive photography around, but it’s possible you’ve seen her non-car work too: Shore also, oddly enough, does quite a lot of wedding photography. Regardless of the subject, her work is so special that I had to know what makes it tick. As she answered my questions, it became clear: she simply loves what she does and is committed to non-stop improvement.
We spoke about how her relatively young car-centric career began: like so many automotive passions, it runs in the family. And like so many superstars, her success sprang from a concentration of good fortune. When she talks of her art, Shore seems amazed by the opportunities she’s had, and is clearly grateful. She is thoughtful and honest about her automotive work and the process that makes it come to life: photos of cars that are reminiscent of candid portraiture, as though all her subjects are living, breathing beings that just happen to be made of metal and grease and leather. There’s an old-timey-ness to her style that reminds me of how memories feel: a little dreamy and surreal, but extremely vivid. Only three years in, her career is just beginning. Though we tend to focus a lot on modernity around here, it’s comforting to know that such energy and passion is put into documenting the beautiful autos of the past (and, thankfully, to producing prints). Find more of her photography on her website; read on to learn about the artist herself.
Peter Iversen’s collection of Porsche 356’s for Classic Driver
Q: Your dad worked for Lotus Formula 1 — is that where you caught the bug?
A: I was around it… He basically quit because he met my mom, got married and had me. So he kind of had to quit his dream job to come back to me and my mom! After that he ended up going into classic car restoration…and the people he worked for after he finished at Lotus built the very first car that I photographed. So that’s how it all began. He worked with this company who were building this Ferrari P4 replica and they actually — 20 years later when it got finished — asked my dad, knowing him as the photographer, if he could photograph it for them for reference. And he said, “Well, Amy’s quite interested in photography; why don’t you let her give it a go?” And that was about two and half, three years ago now.
Q: You never studied photography?
A: I was completely self taught. When I was 15 years old my parents gave me my first SLR camera, and I guess I’d always borrowed my dad’s because he was a hobbyist photographer. It sounds daft now, but I didn’t study it because I never thought you could get a job doing photography full-time. I just thought, “Pssh, the odd lucky few get to do it,” so I never pursued it. But on the flip side I thought, “I’ll go and study metalsmithing and ceramics and glass,” thinking, “Yeah I’ll get a job in that.” Sounds a bit backwards, really.
Q: Did you ever do any work in metals?
A: No, I can’t stand it anymore. I have a degree in something I have no interest whatsoever in anymore. I did when I started, but university was it for me. If I’d done photography [at university], I’d have hated it by the time I finished, so I’m really glad I didn’t!
Q: And that opened a floodgate.
A: Yes. Those photographs — I literally had no idea what I was doing at the time. I looked at the car and thought, “Oh my.” I’d only ever photographed weddings and people at that point, and I Googled, the night before, some ideas of how to photograph a car, and I thought, “I don’t have loads of flashes and I don’t really know how to use Photoshop. We’ll just kind of see what happens.” So I photographed the P4 and those photographs ended up, I guess, going viral.
The amount of Facebook pages I saw them on… I think my website was averaging about 100 views a day and that day I got 12,000 views. So for me, that was like “whoa — this is cool.” And at the same time I photographed the Goodwood Revival just for fun as a spectator, and took my dad. And Goodwood picked up those photographs. The mixture of the P4 photographs and Goodwood picking up those photographs in the same month and then hiring me for their next event, which was the 72nd Members’ Meeting, kind of started it all. So in about six months I was off.
Q: You owe your career to the Digital Age.
A: Hugely, yes, absolutely. Social media has been… without it I would still maybe be doing the odd shoot for somebody, hoping someone might see them. But Instagram and Reddit and Facebook just really sent it wild. So it went really well.
A Scottish road trip in Shore’s 1985 Austin Mini Mayfair
Q: You’ve got a vintage car…a Mini, right? Mid-’80s?
A: Yes, ’85. Well, our family’s always been interested in cars because of my dad. So my brother turns 17 and he finds out that it’s cheaper for him to buy a classic car and restore it and drive it and have classic car insurance than it is for him to buy a newer car that’s really, really crappy and drive it around. And that results in him buying this Mini. I’m looking at this Mini, and I’m thinking “Hmm, this is pretty cool. I’m going to get a Mini as well.” So I bought my Mini off eBay and then fell in love with it. Then my dad said, “Hmm. My kids have got Minis. Think I want a Mini.” So we have three of them now. We do go on rallies together every now and then when we have the chance. It’s absolutely brilliant. I absolutely love it. I [recently] ended up going to Scotland and driving that around on my own for a road trip, which was one of…it was amazing. Being on my own, doing whatever I wanted in a car that I loved. So now I can’t get rid of it.
Q: Your car photography has a portraits-of-people quality to it.
A: I guess because I’ve only ever photographed people, I know how to photograph a person. If you look at a person and you think, “Okay, what’s going to work well with you? Are you an enthusiastic person, are you passionate, are you old? What’s going to go well? How am I going to photograph you?” And then you do the same with a car. Is it a classic? Is it something beasty? Is it new and flashy? And that’s the way I’ve worked, mainly because I’ve not known how to photograph a car in the classic way of “photographing a car.”
It’s very strange. I see things in patterns and shapes and geometry, if that makes sense. So a lot of my photographs are kind of square, very linear. [It’s] really what feels right. You know if you’ve got a load of pencils all lined up perfectly, and there’s one that’s slightly skewed, and oooh it just doesn’t feel quite right — you’ve got to straighten it? It’s the same with photographs. Sometimes I’ll just see — I’ll take a photograph that’s nearly there and I’ll move this way and…right there: that’s what I need.
Q: In addition to cars you also do wedding photography. Are there similarities between the two?
A: Okay, so with weddings the great things about them — and it helps a lot with car events — is that nothing is set, nothing is staged. A lot of things happen fast and you’ve got to try and see what’s happening and line up your shot there and then. And there’s no messing about. You just have to get stuck in and go for it. And when you take pictures of cars, especially ones where you have control over the shoot totally, sometimes it’s almost more difficult because…it’s kind of like “okay, you’ve got this choice and this choice and you can put it there, you can turn the car this way…” That’s one of the biggest differences. The control you have over the situation. So I find weddings easier and almost less stressful than the cars because I have to decide less.
Q: How do you describe your work to someone who’s never seen it before?
A: I never intended it to be a “vintage” look. I saw photographers that I thought, “Hey, I really like that color gradient.” No idea how they did it, but I really studied their photographs next to my photographs and thought “why doesn’t mine look as good as theirs?”
Depending on how well [someone might] know photography, I’d say [mine has] a lot of shallow depth of field. So, I don’t particularly like much in focus other than the subject I’m taking a photograph of. You’re focused on one thing, I want to make sure you’re focused on that one aspect. Not necessarily the whole thing. Sometimes with cars, my favorite photographs, the back quarter that I capture might just be giving you a suggestion of the background, but not quite everything. Funny crops [are my style], I think as well. Not necessarily the focus on the whole car, but this tiny thing.
Q: What do you do to prepare for a shoot?
A: Well, if I can, I like to have a location scout first. It gives me a much better heads-up, being able to look at a situation or scenario and figure out, “that photo will work, that photo won’t work.” And I suppose a lot of the time, a lot of the jobs that I do, I’ll just get thrown into it, and it’s like, “right — go.” So I don’t get the opportunity to prepare very much. I do a lot of work for Classic Driver. Most of the time we don’t prepare — we don’t have the time to go to these places beforehand and check them out. So the ones where we’ve managed to get a bit more of an idea are really awesome.
I’m trying to continually be inspired by other people. And to improve myself by looking at people I’m inspired by. I think, “Right, they are so much better than me; I want to be as good as them one day.” So I keep reminding myself that I’ve still got a lot to learn. [And to] not get stuck in one way. So even if I have a style, I’m open to tweak it and develop it as time goes on.
A lot of the time I can research to an extent. But usually when I’ll get [to the shoot], I’ll say to somebody, “Right, is there something about this particular car I might not think about or the viewers will really want to see?” They’ll say, “Oh yeah, these louvers are specially made by this company who did this that and the other…” For instance, I’ve got a shoot in two weeks’ time: my first DeLorean. I’ll think, okay, which parts are the most iconic parts of that car?
Q: Is there a detail on a car that stands out as a favorite?
A: The thing I love about classic cars in general is the amount of handmade beauty. Like the window catches on an Alfa Romeo [Giulia] TZ. Some of the aspects in that — the little catches and dials are just fantastic. So beautiful, and especially some American cars as well. The effort that’s put into them. You know those things have been hand machined to look so beautiful. The rear quarter of a lightweight [Jaguar] E-Type is beautiful. I think the whole thing is gorgeous, but that back end is lovely.
Q: What do people never ask you about your work?
A: People never actually ask me how much of a petrol-head I am. People just assume that I know everything to do with cars and motorbikes. And in all honesty, I suck at knowing about cars and stuff! I’m really bad at it. I’m learning on the job — I didn’t know a thing, really. I mean, I had a vague interest in Minis, but other than that I’ve learned everything to do with cars whilst I’ve been on this job. So I still make a lot of mistakes, which people do remind me on Instagram, like “errr, that’s not the car you think it is.” I’m still learning a lot.
Q: Anything coming up that you’re particularly looking forward to?
A: I’m looking forward to the Goodwood Members’ Meeting. It’s one of my favorite clients to work for just because it’s always fun and you see so many people you know there.
Q: And [the Members’ Meeting] was the first or second gig you ever had, right?
A: The September I photographed the Ferrari P4 I got picked up by Petrolicious over in the states, and then almost immediately after [that], Classic Driver. But then my first big event for a UK client was Goodwood in the following March. Which was their 72nd Members’ Meeting.
Something else exciting: When I first started doing car photography, I thought, “Where the hell do I go to get hired to be a car photographer?” One of the best classic car magazines in the UK is called Octane Magazine. So I went to them and said “Hi, I’m sort of new at this — do you want to hire me?” And they were great. They basically said they needed someone with more experience. And if I ever had a question I could email one of the guys there and he’d help me out. Really cool. And about a month ago I got a call from that same guy saying “So, we’ve realized what you do now.” [I said,] “Yeah, I kind of do this a lot now!” And [now] I got a call this morning asking to do a cover shoot for them. So even though it’s not one of the biggest jobs I’ve done for the biggest clients, for me personally it’s like — that was kind of where I wanted to be three years ago. And even though I’ve done some crazier things now, it’s like, oooh, that’s really cool!
My dad often rings me throughout the day and he’s like, “So, have you had any interesting emails today?” He rang me about lunch time and I was like, “No, I don’t have anything today.” And then I rang him an hour later: “Octane have asked me if I want to do a cover shoot.” And I’m thinking, “Oh, this is quite good.”