The sound and smell photographer

Thomas Schorn photographs cars. So far, so exciting. He likes sports cars best, racing cars best of all. For Porsche he photographed the record drive of the 919 Hybrid Evo. Looking through the lens, we asked him what makes the fascination of sports and racing cars so fascinating for a photographer?

Interview: Matthias Mederer Photo: Thomas Schorn 14.03.2019 3 min

From a photographer's point of view, what makes sports cars and racing cars so special?

They are a little like cars in high definition, with more attention to detail, drawn with more finesse. And they tell stories even without driving a meter. For me, what is the head of the character in humans is the sports car among cars. Technically, the playground for a photographer is simply bigger. Lighting and design can often be set more wildly and freely.

And in Porsche terms, what makes this so special?

Emotion and tradition, of course. Porsche is the spearhead of the German car industry and shares the rank on its level only with a few worldwide. Everyone knows Porsche. Being allowed to photograph for Porsche is almost a seal of quality for a photographer. There's a part of the myth in every photo.

And from a cockpit perspective?

That's easy: Precision! There is no complaining, no interpretation of commands, but the implementation in an unparalleled way.

A road vehicle has a design that should touch the customer emotionally, it should please him. A racing vehicle like the LMP1 or the 919 Hybrid Evo is different. Aerodynamics determines the design. Is that still nice?

I would extend it by the adjective »sexy«. Racing cars are incredibly sexy for me, inside and out. In addition, there are two components that no other vehicle can match: Sound and smell. Best example: the 911 RSR. From the outside a UFO, from the inside incredibly raw. You just have to sniff into the cockpit here. Unbelievably good! And the sound? Breath taking!

How do you look at a car? Is it a motive, model, sculpture, is it just a machine?

That actually depends a lot on the vehicle. I think in my visual world it is often a mix of sculpture and machine. For me, every car has its own unique character, which often crystallizes at first glance. I love complex light settings and shapes, so the approach is probably more sculptural. In my visual world, people often occur only in motor sports and there very pure, emotionally charged and uncontrolled. A car, on the other hand, is nothing more than a 360-degree mirror, where everything has to be controlled down to the smallest detail.

A picture freezes a moment. How do you solve the conflict of freezing something dynamic like a sports car or even a racing car in a picture, while still depicting the essence of movement?

Complex question. The possibilities are almost unlimited. A car doesn't necessarily have to drive to look fast. Often it is a combination of the right camera angle, focal length, location and above all lighting. It is important to me that the situation appears tangible and not excessive, otherwise the effect fizzles out. It's a little different in motorsport. Perfection is written a little smaller here. Light wobblers, pullers, other disturbers in the picture are even welcome. You freeze the situation, but the disturbing factors always give you a feeling of dynamism in the situation. The hectic, the enormous forces in the vehicle, the tension, the heat during the race are not conveyed by overperfection.

What were your highlights so far?

Certainly the 919 program with Porsche, especially the record drive at the Nürburgring. Not only was the shooting special, it actually took a few days to realize that you were there at something that made history. The performance of Timo Bernhard was sensational! If I had simulated the speed from the onboard on the Playstation before, probably everyone would have said: unrealistic nonsense!

Which 911 would it be for you, if you had the free choice?

The 911 GT3 RS. For me, this is the boss in the Porsche Universe. Very close to racing, incredibly bizarre when you meet him in town. High RPM suction motor, light, a lot of aerodynamics. This car triggers a lot of emotions in me, just by looking at it.

And which Porsche would you like to photograph?

Oh dear, the list is long: 911 RSR, 918 Spyder, 935 K3, 917, GT1... I can go on like this forever.