Michael Hewett assisted by his Wife Jean gave us a really special evening. Michael is a real Dinosour with modern technology, and proud of it! He cannot switch on a mobile phone let alone a computer and has no desire to ever do so. Jean takes care of all these things and even drives his car for him, because she enjoys it; and she assists him in his presentations.
Michael has been taking pictures of the Monaco Grand Prix for over 50 years using film cameras (Pentax Spotmatic and later a Bronica ETRS amongst others), without a tripod,and with 100 ASA film to give the best quality results, all this taking shots of cars moving in excess of 100mph. Most of the members of SCC in the audience have probably only ever used digital cameras, so they really could not fully appreciate the huge skill that Michael used to get his amazing photographs.
He has also written and produced two books of his photographs of the Grand Prix, with Monaco Royalty contributing. The first of these books cost £40 and are now collectors items and change hands at eye-watering prices, and someone called Tom Hanks is after one!
Michael’s career as a motor sport photographer really ‘kicked off’ after he had taken an amazing picture of a car completely upside down with the driver still sitting in position with his arm and hand (now above his head) on the road!! Apparently the driver only received bruising and survived!
It is certainly not a surprise that his pictures have been so widely aclaimed as he told us that having arrived at Monaco a week before the Grand Prix, he spent the next few days sorting out the places that he needed to be to get the shots that he wanted with the sun shining in the right direction and the background right. He always paid particular attention to this so that there was no doubt as to where the event was taking place; so he included such things as the Casino, the Railway Station (before it was knocked down), the Palace or the mountains behind Monaco and always showing the colourful crowds watching.
He also used a few tricks to get to the right places over the years using non genuine arm badges and permits. On one occasion he wanted to be in the tunnel (not allowed during racing), so he hid in the car park (that was accessed half way down the tunnel), emerging during the race when no Marshall could get to him to remove him. On another, he cut away a section of the protective wire fencing with cutters, putting it back in place so no one noticed, and then once the race was on, he put his arm through it and proceeded to take his pictures.
He also used his immense charm to get access to roofs of places like the top of Rosies Bar, a well known landmark on the circuit, and in return Rosie has his pictures exclusively decorating the inside of the Bar.
Michael also took some risks like hanging over the Armco or crouching down behind it with his camera on the top when on one occasion a car smimmed it at 160mph, just where he was situated, leaving bits of rubber from the front tyre on Michael’s hand! On another occasion he was on the side of the track where it passes the harbour, again where he should not have been, behind a lamp post into which, in another race, a car crashed at over 100 mph!
The evening was filled with very interesting anecdotes about the cars, the drivers and other characters involved with motor racing, with Michael passing out his photographs, illustrating what he was discussing, all of which showed us the quality of his work.
Afterwards I spoke to Michael to put him right on Mike Hawthorn’s crash on the Guildford Bye-Pass just off the Hogs Back, because I was working in Guildford at the time and visited the site of the crash. Michael was absolutely charming and asked if I found his talk at all boring as he was particularly worried about the ladies in the audience who probably were not all that interested in motor racing.
Micheal, you were far from boring and everyone present found your talk absolutely fascinating and very entertaining.