Schlegelmilch documentary to air on

A new documentary showcasing the work of legendary Formula 1 photographer Rainer Schlegelmilch premieres on today.

Rainer W Schlegelmilch: Freezing Speed, tells the full story of his 55-year career and showcases his remarkable archive – now curated by Motorsport Network.

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The documentary, narrated by James Allen, features two very familiar faces – Bernie Ecclestone and Sir Jackie Stewart – who explain just how significant Schlegelmilch became in the world of grand prix racing.

“Rainer was more than just a photographer, he was more than an artist,” says Stewart. “He was a psychologist almost, looking at motorsport, because he’s got as many photographs of the people as he has of the cars.”

And Stewart is right, with part of the documentary focused on Schlegelmilch’s remarkable portraits from the 1960s and ’70s. In fact, in keeping with a man whose career has been dedicated to capturing moments, parts of this documentary are more about encapsulating F1 in that era than the artist doing the photographing.

The film also covers tragedy, and the photograph Schlegelmilch took of Nina Rindt in the Monza pits in ’70, which Stewart suspects was taken shortly after Jochen’s crash but before the consequences were known, is moving.

Schlegelmilch’s move into colour photography brings us to the titular technique freezing of speed, which became his trademark.

“Freezing speed is a kind of photography I started very late,” he says. “The first 10 years, I did black and white without freezing speed because you can only do that with colour photography. 

"I started with the zoom, when that was invented, to do freezing speed with a long exposure time – I paint with the colours of a racing car when it’s moving in front of me.” 

The remarkable results of this experimental technique are showcased with some iconic images, including probably Schlegelmilch’s most famous photograph – of Stefan Johansson’s Ferrari at Monaco in 1985.

This is a documentary that offers different things to different viewers. It’s well worth watching whether you are a student of motorsport photography, or just want to revel in the colours, texture and character of a lost age of motor racing. 

Rainer W Schlegelmilch: Freezing Speed premieres on at 2000 Saturday, and is also available on the website.

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