Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Scene [Print without images]

Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Auto focus

By Doug Parsons
XGames.com

In a way, freestyle motocross photographer Chris Tedesco's mom got him his first job. Back in 1999, when he was just 15, the New Jersey native was at an arenacross race at Long Island, N.Y.'s Nassau Coliseum, settling in to watch his mom sing the national anthem, when she asked the event organizers if her kid could get on-course access to take some photos. Tedesco -- who got his first bike, a PW Yamaha 80, in 1996 and was racing a year later -- was already an avid shutterbug. He had his own website and was being mentored by pioneering MX lensman Steve "TFS" Bruhn (who, tragically, passed away just a few months ago).

One press pass led to another, and Tedesco slowly began moving toward his destiny. His journey over the last decade and a half has taken him around the world to shoot for both industry giants, such as Red Bull, and individual pros as their go-to photog. He's parlayed that experience into a gig capturing the beauty and power of BMW's consumer and race-car lines.

In the midst of his busy schedule of driving and photographing high-end sports cars, traveling to all the Nuclear Cowboyz shows for Feld Motorsports and enjoying weekend canyon drives in his own BMW M3, Tedesco took a moment to sit down with XGames.com and talk about what it's like to shoot cars that cost more than most Americans' starter homes.

XGames.com: You were an avid BMW enthusiast long before you started working for them, right?
Chris Tedesco: My grandfather, he loved BMWs, so since the day I was born my family has had BMWs to drive us around in, solely because my grandfather didn't trust any of the other cars out there. And growing up he'd always show me the different car magazines, show me the new BMWs, and he had his own [BMW] himself up until the day he died.

When I was finally able to save up enough money myself and get my own [BMW] was a great day, and to now combine my passion for their cars mixed with photography and my eyes, I couldn't ask for anything more.

What does your job entail, shooting for BMW?
Well, I started off doing what would be the equivalent of the AMA Motocross outdoor series for cars, which is called the American Le Mans Series. It's 10 races across the country where cars compete on ... 1.5 mile- to 4-mile-long tracks. I focused on the BMW team only and I [got] all the behind-the-scenes action [and took] shots of the cars; that has evolved into me doing their press events.

So when they launch a new car, like the M6, they'll invite the media ... to the track and I'll document all that and shoot shots of the cars for the magazines. And now, even more exciting, I get to take the new cars when they come out and shoot them for all the media -- press-release stuff. It's come a long way since [my start in] 2009! [Laughs.]

Do they let you drive the cars when you're doing the new-model shoots?
They do. I'll pick up a car and have it for a day or two; I'll drive it, bring an assistant in a chase car and, wherever I see fit, shoot a photo of the car that represents the car in the best fashion.

One of the best experiences was picking up the new M6 before it came out, in Oxnard [Calif.], and driving it up the coast to Monterey [Calif.]. And thankfully not getting any speeding tickets along the way. [Laughs.]

How hard is it to not experience the full power of such a fast sports production car?
You have to get into it; it'd be like getting on a fast dirt bike and not letting her loose, not slipping the clutch and roosting a good berm. You've got to experience what you're shooting to understand what you're shooting; you have to understand its full potential. ... I will say they do encourage it; they just don't cover speeding tickets. [Laughs.]

Let's talk about your latest gig with Rolls-Royce -- such a premier, exclusive, elite brand.
Yeah, Rolls-Royce, that's honestly something. I got an e-mail from them and thought it was a joke -- that someone was messing with me -- until I read all the way through and saw the official e-mail address. Through doing the work with BMW, they referred me to work for [Rolls-Royce], and out of the potentially marked photographers to do the shoot, they chose me.

[The assignment] was for the Rolls-Royce Wraith, a two-door coupe starting out at $300,000. I recently went and shot that in downtown Manhattan. I was hanging out of the back of a new 6 Series convertible and we were driving all around Manhattan -- Grand Central Station, Central Park. We went over the Brooklyn Bridge. ... It was quite amazing.

Did you get a chance to drive it?
No, unfortunately I did not get to drive it; I was on the clock working for them. But it was pretty fun hanging out of the back of a convertible going over the bridge in traffic. [Laughs.] That was just as good as driving it.

Well, I'd say "I've come a long way" is quite an understatement.
Yeah, I'm truly blessed to have come so far since 1999-2000. To be able to keep working hard and continue to do this after a decade is really amazing. I don't want the ride to end!

Literally?
[Laughs.] Yeah, literally!