Skip to content

PLEASE NOTE: Customs/import tax charges may be added to your order. The courier will notify you of any such charges by SMS or email.

PLEASE NOTE: Customs/import tax charges may be added to your order. The courier will notify you of any such charges by SMS or email.

The Last Eye Witness Book Reviews

Book on pioneering motor racing photography

Book of the Month, Classic & Sports Car, February 2024

'Arthur Brisbane maintained in 1911 that "a picture is worth 1000 words", and this wonderful new book is the perfect case in point. No matter how faithful reports are of motor racing before WWl, nothing matches a contemporary photograph. Most famous are the limited number of shots taken by Jacques-Henri Lartigue, but for a more complete view the brilliant work of the lesser ­known Maurice-Louis Branger is second only to a time machine. Now, at last. there is book published by Philip Porter's team that does full justice to this French master. Historian Doug Nye, who has long wanted to publish a tribute to Branger, is the force behind but full credit to Porter Press The last eye witness, for funding its publication. Doug has selected 160 images from Branger's 800-plate negative archive, of which he has been the caretaker since the passing of his old chum Geoff Goddard. This large, landscape-format book opens with some background and Branger's biography, before the main photographic content. As well as Doug’s circuit introductions and extensive captions, each event featured includes maps, drawn by Wayne Batty, of races such as Paris-Vienna, Paris-Madrid, Le Mans, Ardennes, Dieppe, Rambouillet and Lyons-Givors. Designer Martin Port has done a masterful job of preparing these early images with hours of retouching. Sensitive reproduction was demanded for the illustrations, but Martin and printer Gomer Press have done Branger proud. Right from the epic 1912 cover shot of Louis Wagner's 14-litre Fiat 574 roaring along one of the long straights on the Dieppe course, which was a particular favourite of Branger, the range of compositions brings this heroic era vividly to life. The clarity of the car studies will be an important reference for restorers, but it's the characters and locations that really crystallise that time. In this age of lightweight mirrorless SLR earner-as with unlimited photo storage, it's hard to imagine the challenge for Branger, with his cumbersome early equipment and sensitised glass plates in a special light-proof case that added significant weight. Photo opportunities during the race were usually limited to a dozen shots. The sharp resolution of the work is often mindblowing. Combined with Branger's great eye for composition and dramatic characters, it's easy to get absorbed in the atmosphere. As well as the famous aces, from Camille Jenatzy to Paul Ba blot. Branger also covered hillclimbs and voiturette events. Among the many wonderful images is  a 1903 panning shot of Denis de Boisse at speed in his exposed 12hp racer. That image alone is worthy of any fine-art exhibition. For many the price may seem exclusive, but consider the cost of a single art print and this beautiful book looks like remarkable value, particularly considering the dedication of the team involved.' MW

New Zealand Classic Car, Review by Mark Holman

'The Last Eye Witness contains 192 large pages of black and white photos taken by Maurice Louis Branger between 1902 and 1914, supplemented by detailed captions from the renowned Doug Nye. These were the days of the large, unwieldy cameras and delicate glass plate negatives which must have been a nightmare to manage but, in the hands of such a skilled photographer, the results are simply stunning.'

'You really can spend three or four minutes studying the details in many of the photos; the background of spectators, buildings, roadside advertising, and so on often holding as much interest as the cars ad drivers themselves.'

'This is my 2023 book of the year.'