The Revs Institute for Automotive Research acquired famed automotive photographer Tom Burnside’s collection of images chronicling decades of automotive racing, personalities and car collections. The collection, which numbers some 40,000 negatives and prints, will become part of the ever-growing archive at the Institute’s research center in Naples, Florida.
“Tom Burnside’s work has been highly regarded for decades and will add still more depth to our photographic history of the automobile,” said Miles Collier, president of The Revs Institute for Automotive Research, Inc. “More than just additional automotive images, this collection gives us a look behind the scenes at the drivers, mechanics and other personalities involved in the automotive world.”
Tom Burnside began his photographic career on the East Coast as a stringer for Time-Life. His career with the famed publishing house included work for Sports Illustrated photographing tennis, basketball and horse shows, but his great love was motorsports. Beginning in 1954, Burnside chronicled the emerging sports car scene. He worked at such North American circuits as Bridgehampton, Mosport, Elkhart Lake and Sebring, but also the Nassau Speed Weeks and Grand Prix events in Cuba and Venezuela.
Not one to shoot just track action, Burnside aimed his cameras at the people and activity in the pit area: Young drivers, who then wore short sleeve shirts and polo helmets, mechanics in overalls, pit-side personalities, pre-race preparations and oft-hectic pit stops. Burnsides’ photography has been called, “first-person storytelling of the best kind.”
While much of the collection includes black and white images, Burnside also delved into color with Kodak’s Kodachrome. No easy task as the film had an ASA film speed of 25, so slow and insensitive to light compared to today’s digital cameras. Burnside’s collection also includes archival gelatin silver display prints, a select set also going to The Revs Institute.
Burnside said of his career, “Photographing motorsports as well as classic and antique cars has been very special through the years. Meeting drivers and their ladies, car owners and collectors, mechanics, writers and enthusiasts has been like being in a dream world. It all started innocently enough then escalated into a way of life where I was a privileged outsider, chronicling and befriending the actors and their exotic cars.”
Now the Burnside collection will be integrated into The Revs Institute’s archives and, as its vice president and curator, Scott George, reminded, “Rome was not built in a day. The sorting, scanning and uploading of the Tom Burnside collection will take some time. We have no precise estimate as to how long, but are eager to see it appear on our screen–and yours–in the near future.”
At that point it will be part of the Institute’s extensive library and in the searchable database of the Revs Institute Digital Library at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.
“Knowing my photographs and the history embodied in them will be preserved in the living environment of The Revs Institute is a dream come true,” Tom Burnside and his wife Elinor, remarked.
The Revs Institute of Automotive Research, a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization is recognized for its extensive library, outstanding periodical collections that date from the 1890’s and its photograph and manuscript collections on all things automotive. The Naples, Florida automotive research institute has become a major resource for historians, researchers, writers and academics.
For information, visit www.revsinstitute.org or call (239) 687-REVS.
[Source: Revs Institute; photo: The Revs Institute for Automotive Research]