Highland Rim Speedway

Harvey Arche

All the photographs and texts are copyrighted

I'm hoping these images will work in counterpoint to John Mason's drag strip project; the difference between the drag racing community and the stock car set is roughly the same as the one between cat people and dog people.

Although Iíve been a photographer and worked with cameras and various sorts of image capture devices for over forty years, Iíd never done anything along the lines of straight documentary shooting until I moved to Nashville in the summer of 2005. Iíve never been a Ďtourist shooterí, that is, Iíve always been uncomfortable with the notion of taking pictures of unfamiliar people and places, of making images that hinge of the gulf that may exist between what Iím seeing and myself. What made me take to the streets and start photographing strangers was the immense feeling of homecoming and welcome I experienced on returning to the South. Iíd been kicking around various places in the north and Midwest in since the early Ď80ís, feeling very much the foreigner. In Nashville, however, I knew I was among my own folks, and my pictures might capture a sense of deep personal familiarity, almost like holding up a mirror

Since Iím from the South but not from Nashville, it seemed a natural thing to go out and see what were the local events that drew big crowds, from Mule Day celebrations to roller-derbys, from music festivals to county fairs. There was something particularly appealing to me, though, in shooting at the many small local racetracks we have here in Middle Tennessee. A big part of it has to do with stockcar racing being such a strong indigenous art form. I donít use the phrase blithely: the folks involved in it, both as participants and spectators, view the practice as being a competitive and creative pursuit of excellence, around which most of their other life activities coalesce, even that of family.

An involvement in racing is usually passed down through generations, and is a point of family identity. A racing team is commonly made up of spouses and siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins and in-laws, parents and children. It is a great joy to photograph folk who are so deeply and naturally wrapped up with the Ďmain thingí in their life. My hope is to capture with honesty the intensity and dignity of these people in a setting where their living sense of purpose runs very close to the surface, and return these images to the people in them with thanks for the patience and generosity they showed in letting me get them.

This set of pictures was taken between the spring of 2006 and the fall of 2008, the span of three racing seasons, at the Highland Rim Speedway, just a bit north of Nashville. Of the six or seven racetracks or dragstrips I regularly visited, this one was the most wonderful in terms of having a genuinely intimate, committed, and passionate group of racers and fans attending the events there, and in providing a riveting evening of entertainment.


How come we don't see the cars and the race?! [Fixing Shadows]

Yeah, I don't shoot the cars too much. In and of themselves they seem to me to be somewhat anti-climactic, sort of like the greyhounds at the dog races. That whole business of sitting around for 20 minutes for 30 seconds of action - pictures of races need too much backstory. Photographically I guess I think of them as the furniture in a family protrait.

In a way it would be impossible for me to really appreciate what's going on at these events, as each weekend's race is a new installment in a very elliptical, prolonged, and multi-generational soap opera.

For cars check out Bill Mattick's Extreme High Speed, on the MUROC playa.

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