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Just beyond the frame

4 years ago

We’ve asked a selection of photographers behind some of the best images submitted to the 2019 Sony World Photography Awards to tell us how they created their successful shot. Next up is Norwegian photographer Sigurd Fandango, who invites us to step into one the most exhilarating and high octane events on the planet.

This image is part of a photo essay on the Bonneville Salt Flats Speed Week in Utah, which takes place every August. Ever since the car was invented people have gathered there to set land speed records. Speed Week welcomes amateurs and professional drivers, as long as they can present a car that meets the specifications of The Southern California Timing Association – a competition sanctioning body that maintains rules and records for land speed racing events. It is a non-profit, volunteer organization made up of eleven separate car clubs. The cars race down the completely flat and straight desert one by one, the fastest reaching speeds that exceed 700 kilometers per hour.  

It’s a strange event to photograph, and even a stranger event to watch, which is the subject of this image. First, the unforgiving sun heats the flats to more than 40 degrees celsius. The heat is immediately reflected back at you from the white surface of the ground. Seasoned participants warn that you may get sunburns in unusual places if your shorts are too loose. The event is also both extremely thrilling, and extremely boring. Yes, the cars pass at extreme speeds, but for everyone's safety they are at least a couple of kilometers away and they surprise you at infrequent intervals. So you stand out in the blazing sun and wait for up to an hour before a car zips by and is gone in a couple of seconds. The course is cleared and you wait for the next car to whizz by. This goes on for a week. There’s a significant number of people who visit each year, many traveling for days across the continent. They’re a close-knit community – many have watched someone they know or love die here in an accident.

I often travel to new places on assignment. For seven years I have been a staff photographer at D2 Magazine, the weekly supplement to Dagens Næringsliv, a Norwegian business daily newspaper. We’re a small but ambitious photography department filling the pages of a 70-100 page magazine with high-quality photography each week. Since my first assignment there, I have pretty much been traveling constantly, doing stories on everything from motorsports in Africa to portraits of pop stars and the royal family. Every assignment is different, and I usually only go to the same place once. 

As for equipment I usually shoot handheld with the Canon 5D and a 24-70mm lens. The bright white salt works like a big reflector, so you can shoot in hard contrasty sunlight without harsh shadows which give these images a particularly intriguing look. 

This image to me is dreamlike, but still very much an American image. I feel it tributes Gary Winogrand’s perhaps most famous color photo of a family at a rest stop near some sand dunes. This way of engaging with nature feels very American to me, how you can drive right into a beautiful place and unload a bunch of gear to keep you at a comfortable distance from the elements.

Enjoy Sigurd Fandango's portfolio here.

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