MMR Blog

Nigel Snowden – Pacem

Posted on June 14, 2013 Comments (1)

Steve McQueen

Our lead image is probably the most recognized image of a racing driver in the world. It is the picture of Porsche driver Michael Delaney indicating to his Ferrari nemesis that, like the longbow man on the winning side centuries ago, his two fingers remain intact. Odd that this image, known universally as the two finger salute so representative of racing, is of a fictional race driver in a fictional race.

The image is, of course, of Steve McQueen, talented actor and driver, and the movie is Le Mans. We share the image today because the man who took it, Nigel Snowden, recently died.

As often happens, the real story behind the fiction is more interesting than what was created.

Nigel Snowden was a successful F1 photographer in the early sixties through the eighties and supplied images for top motorsports books and magazines of the time. This image, was not only his shot, it was his idea.

Steve McQueen’s film production company, Solar Productions, raced in a Porsche 908, equipped with cameras front and rear, in the 1970 Le Mans race to gather footage for their upcoming film. The car was driven by Herbert Linge and Jonathan Williams. (Jonathan’s shorts stories of the day are here in MMR Short Stories.) Driving and working the cameras whenever good opportunities presented themselves, they finished eighth overall. Since Snowden was part of the race day pit action which Solar wanted to replicate, they offered to pay him to do the same thing for their movie. He was delighted. At the end of the movie when Michael Delaney wanted to offer the single digit salute, it was Nigel Snowden who suggested that this might be viewed as vulgar by Europeans and suggested the alternative.

Juan Fangio visits

Nigel Snowden at work

Camera Crew

Steve McQueen and friend say hello

Movie star cars at rest

You can see the images which Snowden shot on that film in Michael Keyser’s excellent book, Behind LeMans, the Film in Photographs.

Nigel Snowden