Motorsport photographer and 2017 graduate, Ashleigh Hartwell discusses her experiences since leaving the Editorial and Advertising Photography course.

CIRCUIT DE LA SARTHE, FRANCE – JUNE 17: Fernando Alonso, Toyota Gazoo Racing during the 24 Hours of Le Mans at Circuit de la Sarthe on June 17, 2018 in Circuit de la Sarthe, France. (Photo by Ashleigh Hartwell / LAT Images)

I started at LAT Images pretty much as soon as I graduated in 2017 as a picture desk editor. I work on the live desk, receiving, editing and sending images from motorsport events we cover, such as Formula 1, Formula E, World Rally Championships and also the World Endurance Championship. 

My role has always been the starting place to develop into a motorsport photographer since LAT created the role back in the days of film. Which lead me being offered the opportunity to go to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2018 at the 2nd photographer for the event. This was my first job as a photographer.

We were set to shoot for Autosport magazine and, so we had a pretty open brief to shoot the event in its entirety. Think the thing I found most difficult was the combination of shooting at night and shooting motorsport, but when you have majority of the race in the dark, it gave a chance to get my foot in. 

After nearly 47 hours awake, I stood in an unusual spot for the podium celebration, which takes place above the pitlane. I chose this position because once the podium starts, the fans invade the track with flags and smoke bombs – so I wanted to shoot that from the fans perspective while the other photographer was situated in the pitlane. I was on the opposite side of the track to get the winners crossing the line with the checked flag as per requested from Autosport and, so I wasn’t really prepared for what happened next. 

As the Toyota (Driven Kazuki Nakajima at the time with team mates 2x F1 Champ Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Buemi) crossed the line, Nakajima came to a holt. Alonso and Buemi had jumped off the pit wall to greet their team mate over the line because this was the first time Toyota had ever won the 24 Hours of Le Mans. They proceeded to celebrate on the track for a little bit, when Alonso pulls out his native Spanish flag and waves it above his head for a brief moment, staring right down the barrel of my lens. I was the only photographer in position for this and the image went as far the all of the official Formula 1 channels and also on Alonso’s channels.  It wasn’t till a year later that I had been sent a copy of one of Germany’s most prominent motorsport magazines, that I had my first cover image! 

Off the back of the success of my first trip, I am now first asked to shoot this event – as long as we can go racing that is!

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