Be a Facebook hater if you must, but if you’re involved in any sort of information-gathering work, FB is amazing. Case in point, somebody turned me onto the 1970’s Motorcycle Road Racing page on FB, where I stumbled onto some great old images I’d never seen before.
Mary Grothe’s father was a professional writer who hated writing and loved photography.
“If you love photography so much,” she asked him, “why not do it professionally and quit writing?”
“Because it’s too easy for people to steal your photos.”
Some things never change. But the seed had been planted in Mary’s young noggin, and fear of non-compensation isn’t going to stop us from making 10 of her photos this week’s Top 10. Disclaimer: All these aren’t necessarily Mary’s favorites because nobody has time for her to sort through all the boxes and pick 10. But they’re all definite keepers.
Mary’s brother Scotty Seegers became an AMA Expert racer back in the ’70s (that’s Mary taking Scotty’s picture), and her husband was an amateur club racer. At some point she began to bring her camera along to the races, and by 1968 she was shooting for Cycle News, Australian Motorcycle News, Cycle World, and many of the biggies – a thing she kept doing until 1981, when the arrival of children on the scene began to curtail her Loudon-trotting activities. Also Danville, Daytona, Atlanta, Charlotte, Pocono, Summit Point, Bridgehampton, Indianapolis (not the 500 track), and maybe one or two more she’s forgotten.
A house fire burned up most of her collection a few years ago, but a recent call from another magazine to do some posters had her digging into what was left for some Wes Cooley images, whereupon she realized she still had quite a trove, and began sharing some of it on Facebook. (She says there’s an 1980s page too. I haven’t even gone there yet…)
Those were the days, says Mary, when you could get up close to the action with your motor-drive Nikon F2 and 500mm Nikkor lens. Sometimes she’d work the corners where there should’ve been cornerworkers but weren’t, snapping away while keeping an eye out.
“The camaraderie was great, it was a really special community of people. Loudon was my favorite, there were all different angles to shoot from. It was a fairly tight course and always tight racing. We’d camp out, and I always had a good time wherever I went there. I had a Bultaco trials bike to ride from turn to turn…”
Mary’s lived in Buckland, Virginia since 1978, where she’s been helping put on the Art at the Mill fine art show in Millwood, VA, for a number of years, shooting the occasional horse event, raising her brood. “We’re very prolific”, she says. In fact, Mary’s now expecting her sixth, wait for it, great grandchild. Time flies.