During the twentieth century, the seven-mile beach at Camarthen Bay on the southern coast of Wales, was witness to the breaking of a number of motor racing records. To this day, it still draws appropriately-dressed, vintage car lovers to races on the beach, an activity guaranteed to restore a sense of the olden days. Equipped with her analogue camera, the British photographer captures both the historic cars, as well as the unique flair surrounding the event.

Where does your interest in cars come from?
I worked at Country Life magazine as a photographer and photographic archivist. The magazine sent me to the first Goodwood Revival in 1998 to capture the theatre of the event, and I was instantly addicted to the cars racing and the history. I promptly got my motor racing license and started on my motoring adventure – both racing, photographing, and now commentating and writing about historic motor racing ladies of the 1920s and 1930s. I am captivated by how these trailblazers simply showed the gentleman how it was done!

What do you think leads people to immerse themselves in other times?
More so than ever, our daily lives are filled with stresses of so much information. All I know is that my own passion for looking into the history of motorsport came from working in theatre and dance. I love the trailblazers of the 1920s and 30s, so I appreciate attending the beach races at Pendine. Each car has a story and each participant is as fully immersed as I am.

What exactly is Pendine Sands and what makes it popular today?
Pendine Sands is known for World Land Speed records during the twenties. I first learnt of the history of the speed trials at Pendine Sands whilst researching through telegrams and Daily Sketch newspaper columns for a radio drama, when I was writing about the Honourable Mrs Victor Bruce, who was driving to become the first woman to win the Monte Carlo Rally in January 1927. The seven miles of Pendine Sands still attract land speed record attempts. In June 2000 Don Wales set the United Kingdom Electric Land Speed record in the Bluebird Electric 2, achieving a speed of 137 mph. Since forming in 2010, The Vintage Hot Rod Association have set about creating their own set of records, which includes the multi-award winning Hot Rod Races on Pendine Sands, the fastest event of its kind in the world, where all cars are pre-1949.

What was your photographic approach?
Resplendent with the vintage Hot Rods entering the holding paddock, I was instantly transferred into the period pre-1949. After seeing Hot Rods on the beach, I decided I needed to draw a rough storyboard, or I might get very distracted. I would ‘stick’ to this no matter what. I didn’t. I was busy trying to compose images to evoke a consciousness of a time less travelled, when these drivers were trying to build up their courage to break their personal and class records. However, I didn’t look at everyone’s timings, or the details of each car and previous or current custodian; I was really concentrating on how to share the emotion I was feeling with these beautiful beasts speeding along the sands; how would I create the space for you, a photographic heart, to want to be here with me, travel back in time to land speed records of the pioneers, of the wayward travellers, who really had no limits.

You photographed with the M6, what was your experience?
Although I have owned the M6 since 2008, I have been using my M6 TTL regularly for the past 2 years, because of the Kodak Vision 3 Cine 250d and 50d film, which is making me shoot more and more analogue. Even after all these years, when I load a roll of film, my heart still races to a nervous pulse where I almost forget what I am doing. However, the M6 is a perfect friend on a beach. So small, it is in my hand, and my hand is attached to my face, and I don’t even realise it.

What fascinates you about analogue photography?
The magic of film is that you have to really understand how to use the camera to achieve the perfect image. Empty clear vistas of the sands with just the cars, and in the distance a mirage of people standing along the seashore, waiting for the Model T Fords and space age silver streamlines to pass by. Film absorbs it all as if it were a hungry Labrador. An SD card might seem easy, but I still count film; I always shoot as if I am working with 36 frames, whilst the digital back is a blessing for when I have finished the shoot, and I can look at the images to ensure I have what I need before I leave the environment. My Leica M10P and M240 are sublime pieces of engineering, with censors capturing colours that I have come to expect from Leica, however, if you give me half the chance, I will play out with my M6 any day.

Classic cars always paint a picture of the past… what do they tell us today in the present?
The world is so concerned with development and the future, that we forget historic cars were such an important factor to the cars of today. Electric cars were designed at the turn of the 20th Century; fashion was inspired by the motoring industry, along with the suffragette movement, because the removal of the corset was to aid the ability to drive; Harris Tweed was worn not only to look smart but was utilised as a fire retardant during races. The cars have such stories to tell and I consider many of them old friends. I recently published a book about the Harris Tweed cloth, and I’m currently writing about historic women racing drivers. Sustainability and trailblazing. It is still especially important today. Classic cars are the most sustainable way of living, especially now with new innovative fuel systems.

Lara Platman is a Leica Camera AG Ambassador, a Getty contributor, and the author and photographer of four books. Her passion for documenting areas of culture that are often considered to be eccentric or endangered, stems from being brought up in a family who produced theatrical costumes: she grew up around creative craftspeople. Platman trained as a photographer and then a journalist, and now combines these two skills to bring an in-depth study to each of her projects. Her overarching ambition is to ensure that Britain’s living national treasures are acknowledged by a wider audience. Find out more about her photography on her website and Instagram page.

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