An Interview with Racecourse Photographer John Grossick
Updated: Jul 9, 2021
There is a lot more to Grossick Racing Photography than racing photos. However, racing is a specialist part of the business that started from the first photos taken at Musselburgh racecourse fifty years ago. 2021 marked Grossick's twenty-fifth Grand National as an official photographer at Aintree, made even more memorable by Rachel Blackmore becoming the first woman to win the prestigious chase.
There are the other parts to Grossick Photography too, such as equestrian sports, commercial, press or corporate events, plus weddings. The business was started up by John Grossick, 65, and his late wife Anne, who tragically died in January 2018 after battling cancer. Both Anne and John had been past recipients of the HWPA Photographer of the year. Their children Pam and Johnny are also in the family business, which has seen times change from when negatives were run into town to be developed between races to nowadays having a fully equipped digital unit! No matter how time has evolved, the fact that Grossick Photography has been capturing memories, especially winners, hasn’t changed. John once lived the life of a jockey so he understands every part of the sport and the people within it.
Past posts on the Grossick Photography pages of social media have been a glimpse into the past of racing from northern ‘points to past glories at the Cheltenham Festival. A stack of wonderful memories categorised. Somehow, these photos seem older than they are, from the end of the 1990s and into the new Millenium. Nevertheless they are amazing snippets of when woolly colours were still worn by amature jockeys and those Chetenham winners are as instantly recognisable as old friends. The photos taken now are clearer, glossier and brighter, but still capture the winners and great times as photographers always have.
John, grew up in Wallyford, within walking distance from Musselburgh racecourse where his photography career began and now lives in Rockhallhead, Dunfries.
When/how did you start taking an interest in photography?
I always had an interest as a kid in this German Camera that Father brought back from National Service. I studied photography at school and covered Musselburgh Races as work experience in 1970 for the local paper and by 1973 was covering Musselburgh, Hamilton and Perth for the course photographer.
How did this progress onto becoming a racecourse photographer?
It was a slow progression because I had an Amateur rider’s licence and was hell bent on becoming a national hunt jockey. Then, one day riding out, Ron Barry came to school some horses and advised me to get a job, keep taking photos and stay Amateur. So, I did, and, ironically, the more I went racing with the camera, the more people I met, the more rides I got! So, my wife Anne would take over a camera and for the next 25 years we had a fantastic time combining family, work, racing, riding and building up the Photography business. By the mid 90s, I gave up riding (was too old anyway) to direct my focus and concentrate fully on the Racing Photography side of the business. By then we were Official course photographers at all the Scottish tracks and the North of England as well as working for the Scotsman, the Daily Record and Freelancing for the Sporting Life/Racing Post and other National Press.
John with wife Anne after she won horseracing's
photographer of the year in 2001
Photo credit: Racing Post
What racecourses do you work at?
Aintree, Ayr, Carlisle, Cartmel, Cheltenham, Hamilton Park, Haydock Park, Hexham, Kelso, Musselburgh, Newcastle, Perth & Sedgefield.
What is your favourite racecourse?
I can’t fault any of the Northern courses but Flemington on Melbourne Cup Day is something else.
What is your favourite race meeting?
The Grand National.
Do you prefer Flat or National Hunt?
John Grossick at Aintree- back far right.
In your opinion, what makes a successful racecourse photographer?
We try and take photos that we would buy if it were our horse or if we were riding.
What is the best aspect about taking photographs at the races?
Being close to the action , the horses and the racing tribe.
What is the worst?!
Which racing yards have you visited and which ones left a big impression?
I love stable tours, and have visited many yards. The facilities at Jackdaws Castle are second to none but I still like the old ways, the jogging down the roads through the village of Greystoke then up past the castle onto the old turf of the Fell gallops.
John with trainer Lucinda Russell at Cheltenham Racecourse in 2015
What have been your best days in racing as a fan and as a photographer?!
One For Arthur winning the Grand National.
What other events have you photographed?
We’ve always covered Northern & Yorkshire Point-to-Points , Eventing, Pony Club etc and covered European Dressage in Germany, Showjumping in Portugal and France.
What is your most favourite ever photograph that you have taken?
It was one of Anne’s from the Grand National (below). The orange dot at the bottom of the photo is Richard Johnson.
Photo Credit: Grossick
What are your hobbies?
When I have time, I often walk miles with my lurcher and terrier.