Picture Perfect


It wasn’t long ago that I talked here about legend racing photographer, T. Taylor Warren. He was sickly at that time, and now is no longer with us. He died last Wednesday at 83.

I’ve been saying a lot in the past week about how probably the hardest thing in racing was trying to catch T. Taylor without a smile on his face. That was a fact when I first met him, and remained a fact right up to his last race this year. He even made it to his beloved Darlington the end of August 2008 for their Historic Racing Festival. Taylor first made pictures, as he would always say, at Darlington in 1952 during the track’s third year of operation.

Recognized by his ever-present floppy hat and photographer’s vest, T. was a friend to everyone. He was soft-spoken, jovial, and very humble. Asked if he had a favorite of all the photos he’s taken, he would usually respond, “The next one I take.”

We all have our memories, but how pleasant it is when we can reminisce over old photographs. More importantly, modern-day historians owe their research accuracy to those photographers who toiled week after week, from state to state, into the late nights and through the rain delays to capture history on film. What better verification is there than the photograph? One picture truly equals a thousand words.

T. Taylor saw to all of these responsibilities as his life’s work. He didn’t necessarily feel he was preserving history at any given time but, later in years, recognized how what he had accomplished would be a legacy to leave behind for the motorsports world.

T.’s day wasn’t done after hours of tiring shooting and miles of walking at the tracks. Afterwards, that same night, he would process his film and print up pictures for the track and for the media. In the early 1960s at Daytona Speed Weeks, he would be dealing with roughly 3,000 exposures. His small trademark rectangle in the bottom right corner of an 8x10 glossy spelled out his name for credit — etched right into the print.

Taylor was a NASCAR photographer from the early 1950s on at circuit tracks. He didn’t only shoot the big daddy tracks and events, he labored long and hard at the weekly short tracks as well. Tracks like his home track Martinsville and at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, NC. But he was indeed the first track photographer at Daytona International Speedway (up until 1971), and at Charlotte. His favorite was medium format (2-1/4” square) negatives.

Memory was another one of Taylor’s high points. You could, and I did, literally ask him if he shot such-and-such photo, and he’d take you very serious, and ponder an answer. Most recently, I had called him regarding the groundbreaking for Daytona International Speedway. He recalled it was during the month of February 1958, because he got called away from his duties shooting Speed Week races out at the beach to come document the ceremony. He had started shooting on the beach in 1953.

Taylor began developing his own photos in the darkroom when he was in his high school camera club. He then attended the Rochester (NY) Institute of Technology. He was awarded in 2006 by the International Motor Sports Hall of Fame the Henry T. McLemore Award for achievement in journalism. Taylor was the first photographer ever to be presented this honor, normally reserved for writers and broadcasters.

T. has been up in blimps, planes, and helicopters snapping away. He even went up in one of the Blue Angels jets. One of his hairiest experiences, however, was when Fireball Roberts toured him around Daytona International Speedway at 127 mph.

I learned a lot from T. Taylor Warren, and I’ll never forget him. His images will always be at my side as an historian. I feel rewarded to have known him and to have been friends.

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, 2008

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