27 March, 2017

A Glimpse Behind the Curtain (Behind the 25, part 8)

Evil lairs are always inaccessible. Impenetrable. And the constant distance creates an aura of mystery about the place. A handful of interactions grow into a half-true caricature of the people who actually reside there.

I had seen the view above many times over the years, and a similar kind of caricature had grown in my mind. In my imagination, the people working in the tower were sticklers for everything. They loved rules, order, and nothing else.

Finally, in 2016, I was able to take a glimpse behind the curtain. And I can say for certain that the notions that I had were not the full story, and they were not a fair depiction either.

Of course, I should have known that. As with any fractal, the traits that I came to appreciate about the pit marshals, the flaggers, and the safety crew also reflect the traits of the race control team itself. And vice-versa. This is definitely a race where the details show you the bigger picture. But the opposite is also true: the big picture can show you hidden details.

13 March, 2017

Muscle (Behind the 25, part 7)

As the race-day sky turns from black, to blue, to red, orange, and finally, sunlight, the members of the Safety crew awake from their last moments of guaranteed sleep during the race. Safety is the last of the trifecta of teams that represent Race Control outside of the tower: the pit marshals are the eyes, ears, and voice along pit lane, and the flaggers fulfill a similar role around the track.

Safety is the muscle. When a car has to get moved, or a dangerous situation needs to be disarmed, Safety is called to the scene. And just like a fire company, they rest between calls, and they work when they're called. But during the 25, they're on call all race long.

26 February, 2017

Enforce and Protect (Behind the 25, part 6)

Flaggers are the second manifestation of Race Control. Just like the pit marshals on pit lane, the flaggers keep watch, enforce rules, and relay observations from around the track. They communicate with the drivers by way of a set of flags, and they use radio to communicate back and forth with Race Control, and/or with other flag stations.

The flags encode a small set of relatively terse messages, including things like "caution," "faster cars approaching," "dirt or oil on track," and "you did something bad; pit now." The flaggers also use motion to convey urgency — a waving flag is more urgent, a still (or "standing") flag is less urgent. Anything more nuanced will likely come over the radio, once the pit marshals talk to the driver's crew chief.

21 February, 2017

2016 Year in Review: July through December

I started off the second half of the year with a surprisingly cathartic lamentation about a moral trap of documentary photography: regardless of how much you do, regardless of how many stories you tell, what stands out on reflection are the stories that you didn't tell, and the people you let down by not telling those stories.

For my own part, I think I've also managed to use Instagram as a somewhat effective coping mechanism against the sense of doing nothing about a particular thing I covered. A short Instagram post acknowledges that the event happened, that I was there, and that it's something that I care about. Moreover, my focus on writing haiku with my IG posts also forces me to at least partially digest some of the story of what I captured.

(From "Life, Death, and Lack of Closure: The perpetual struggle of the inadvertent historian", published in July)