Fashion photographer Mikael Jansson revs up for Formula One.
Over the last two decades, Mikael Jansson has taken pictures for the four main editions of Vogue worldwide, shot ad campaigns for Donna Karan and Calvin Klein and worked with practically every model who gets paid over $10,000 to get out of bed in the morning. Which is why it’s somewhat of a surprise that his coffee-table book, Speed of Life, is not about the wild and crazy times of Kate Moss or Naomi Campbell, but the race car drivers who compete in Formula One.
Three years ago, the photographer did a cover shoot for Italian Vogue in Monte Carlo, decided to stay on for a few days to attend one of the races and got hooked. “I became completely fascinated with it,” he says by phone from Stockholm, where he lives. “I was just amazed by these young boys, who are so fit physically and so focused. It’s just a really tough sport.”
Jansson also saw Formula One’s ballooning budgets and corporate tie-ins as a kind of metaphor for certain trends in the fashion world. “It’s very similar,” he says. “These guys change their suits and helmets every year, the cars are so colorful and there are logos everywhere. The commerce of it really reflects the time we’re living in.”
So, in between shooting magazine editorials and campaigns for Karan, H&M and Dsquared, Jansson toured the world attending “between 20 and 25” races, hanging out with the teams in the garage, in the pit, even on the field. “I went to Japan, China, Brazil—pretty much everywhere,” he says. He took the best of what he got on film and compiled it in the 300-page, 11 1/2–inch-by-17-inch anthology that’s just hitting stores now from Steidl.
Curiously, there are no images of the accidents that often occur during the races, but Jansson insists the reason for this has nothing to do with an agreement he made for access—just the reality of how hard it is to get a real close-up of a pileup. “It’s quite difficult to catch,” he says. “There are crashes all the time, but sometimes you’re on the wrong side of the track or it doesn’t happen right in front of you.”
Plus, he adds, “To me, that wasn’t so important. I wanted to document the expressions on their faces just before they get in the cars. Because it’s frightening, and quite lonely. This is all the drivers do, and I think you feel that looking at the book. They’re like spacemen.”
Spacemen with very large endorsement deals, that is.