If you have ever seen photos of vehicles shrouded in camo, weird tribal symbols or canvas to obscure their identity, you have undoubtedly seen her work. But, unless you are an insider, you probably have never heard of their source: Brenda Priddy.
For more than two decades, Priddy has made her living shooting photos of pre-launch vehicles long before they see the light of day in promotional literature. Based in Arizona, she hits the road in late spring or early summer to capture (to enthusiasts’ and editors’ delight) images of yet-to-be-introduced vehicles. For as long as she has done this work, civilians have asked her to share her secrets or take them along for the ride.
This year, she is doing that with the first edition of her spy photographers’ camp. Beginning July 7, 10 adults with the itch and the cash (about $800 plus expenses) can spend a week where manufacturers desert test their new crop of toys, shoot photography of their own, and learn the tricks of the trade. Other dates will be added if there is adequate interest. Held at an undisclosed location in Nevada, Las Vegas is the closest airport. Attendees will also need a vehicle of their own for tracking their photographic prey. Participants must be over 21.
“There are only a few photograpers that make a living at spy photography,” she explains. “I don’t suggest that the campers quit their day jobs after the experience, but they will learn about how it’s done and about selling their work. I was never willing to share that information until now
A photographer for most of her life, Priddy decided to try spy photography in 1992 when, driving home one day, she saw two lightly camouflaged cars at an area garage. She came back to shoot pictures of what turned out to be the 1994 Ford Mustang, and pitched her shots to Automobile magazine, which ran one as a cover shot.
Summer is her busy season, with long days — up to 22 hours — and the southwest is fertile ground, but she says that testing cars is a cross-country endeavor for most vehicle manufacturers. Some popular areas include Michigan, Florida, Texas, Arizona, Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, and even New York City.
“There are secret garages, and I know where they are,” Priddy explains. “Most of this is in the middle of nowhere. Safety is our most important concern and we won’t pay anyone’s traffic fines or bail if they mess up. This is all unofficial and I am not a tour guide. I will be doing my job, while campers learn the business. We will do regular debriefings and compare notes. That — as well as the adventure — will be key to gaining experience.”
Priddy, who does exceptional art photography, is also using crowdfunding through kickstarter.com for a series of postcard books –the first is hood ornaments — and she is clearly more nervous about this turn of career. “I love doing these shots and want to share them,” she explains. “The idea of kickstarter came from my daughter, and the look of the book from a high-quality book that a farm woman shot of people with their hens. Amazing,” she adds.
For more info about spy camp, go to [email protected]