In the world of racing photography one name stands above the rest; Don Hunter. Few collections equal the historic scope and quality of this legendary photographer. His iconic images span nearly 50-years and represent a Hall of Fame roster; Lee Petty, Curtis Turner, Fireball Roberts, Richard Petty, Fred Lorenzen, David Pearson, Mario Andretti, A.J. Foyt, Darrell Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt to name only a few. He spent a lifetime documenting the men, machines and rarely seen moments that fueled this American obsession. His images capture the emotions, drama and determination that unfolded each weekend at tracks around the nation. One of the true legends of racing photography Dons body of work is timeless.
Born in Asheville, NC Don was an avid racing fan from an early age. Shortly after his discharge from the Navy Don began documenting the exploits of some of NASCAR's early pioneers on the dusty dirt tracks surrounding his hometown. Lexington, North Wilkesboro, Greenville-Pickens and Asheville-Weaverville were some of his early favorites. There he watched as men like Curtis Turner, Lee Petty, Cotton Owens and Ralph Earnhardt began driving careers that would turn them into legends.
In 1954 Don began work at the local Asheville paper. He spent countless hours working in the darkroom (pictured left) where Don learned first hand the importance of lighting and the art of photo developing. These early experiences would create a style that made his images instantly recognizable. Don would eventually get his shot as a photographer for the paper where his talent was quickly recognized, winning a national photo competition. Although he would cover numerous stories while working for the paper, Dons true passion was motorsports photography. In 1959 he went to work for the Charlotte News (Charlotte Observer) where his career and his reputation continued to flourish.
During his career Don found himself covering a multitude of stories and events around the United States including celebrity appearances, cultural events and even Presidents. (at left-Don with future President Richard Nixon) Dons reputation continued to grow, as did the personal acknowledgments. Numerous awards for his growing body of work inspired Don to excellence. Always captivated by the human condition, many of Don's most noted images document the character and intense emotion of his subject. A knack for being in the right place at the right time often found Don in position to capture compelling moments as they unfolded. This skill would lead to his highest honor.
Don retired from the newspaper business after a 29-year career and soon accepted a position as Director of Photography for the Charlotte Motor Speedway. He also continued his work with nearly every major racing publication in the United States, including his long term relationship with Car & Driver. He worked for Chrysler and was 7-time Champion Richard Petty's official photographer during his final season in 1992.
After a lifetime as one of the premier photographers in the country, Don "unofficially" retired in 2001. His vast archive continues to yield treasures that evoke emotion and offers a glimpse into the past. Although Don past away in 2008, there is little doubt that his enormous body of work will continue to inspire, captivate and educated people for many years to come. His images are as relevant today as the day they were captured.